Written by Nate Wright

May 11, 2023

How to delegate in 7 steps

Updated from my original.

If you want to get more from your team and your efforts without feeling like you have to do everyting yourself then follow these steps to more effectively delegate your work.

Effective delegation starts with a little self-reflection and deliberate planning. It’s an art that needs nurturing and practice to gain rich rewards and it’s often easily misunderstood as a way to assign a task and give up responsibility.

Delegation executed correctly however can be a powerful tool that increases your ability to achieve more with your limited time while motivating a team member to practice using independent judgment and problem solving skills. Delegation is more than simply assigning a person a task. Effective delegation can be about giving someone clear and thoughtful guidance and expressed responsibility and authority to complete a project that is outside their existing experience or role. It’s an opportunity to grow and learn.

1. Determine what to delegate.

Look for tasks or projects you’ve mastered that steal your time from gaining new skills or pursuing more important opportunities. Look for tasks that you can do with your eyes closed or need to be completed on a recurring basis. Think of delegation as a learning and professional growth opportunity for a member of your team.

2. Determine the right person for the job.

Before you delegate align the task with the right person. You wouldn’t give a bookkeeping assignment to a chef. This point is exaggerated to illustrate it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Who has the biggest learning opportunity? How well does this task fit into their overall set of responsibilities, skills, and workload?

3. Identify and communicate the opportunity

Consult with your team to explain how each opportunity helps them develop new skills or strengthen existing skills and contributes to the team’s success. People are more likely to succeed when they understand ‘why’ they are doing something versus just receiving random assignments. Providing the context for the opportunity will go a long way in having them adopt the task and successfully remove it from your workload.

4. Define clear outcomes

What does success look like? Be as specific as possible with what you are seeking as an outcome. Use examples whenever possible to help someone understand. Most of our learning comes by doing, so use this to your advantage. You may think you don’t have time to show someone, but if you spend the time to delegate properly now,  you will earn back the time in the future. If the task does not require the same level of precision each time, I encourage you to let the person create a solution on their own. Your way of doing things doesn’t have to be the only way of completing a task. This leaves the door open to innovation and a potential new way of generating the same outcome with less effort.

5. Communicate expectations and check for understanding

Provide guard rails to operate within and define the level of independent judgment, responsibility and authority that is being delegated. It’s good to create an opportunity for questions to be asked and answered to ensure you and the person your are delegating to are aligned toward the same outcome.

6. Keep an open door for discussion

Enable success by providing clarity when asked and by establishing a schedule for regular discussion to check progress. Avoid solving the problem for your team mate. Instead provide examples or suggestions that enable development of their own solution.

7. Give credit where credit is due 

Recognize when learning and success has occurred and celebrate it. Whether it is a simple task or something more challenging, verbally recognizing a job well done will go a long way toward creating an environment of success for the next person that receives a delegated task. 

Effective delegation may take a little more planning and work on your part initially, but in the end it can help you lessen the demands on your time by focusing and enabling you to achieve higher levels of productivity on the projects and skills that matter most to you.

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