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How to delegate… like a boss!

Published 6 Dec 2020
1 min read
Female manager pointing over laptop

Your business is your baby. Most small business owners have single-handedly built their business from the ground up, so it’s no wonder so many have trouble sharing the load when staff come on board. In fact, according to 2015 Gallup research, only one in four employer entrepreneurs can delegate effectively. But as your business baby goes through a growth spurt, you’ll need to get used to trusting your team with important decisions. Even though you may be feeling like you need to be across every aspect of your business (like you were in the beginning), the hard truth is that you no longer have time to do it all. Letting go of work you’ve always done can be tough – but when you delegate tasks to your team, you can put areas of your business in the hands of experts. This can free up time for you to focus on top-line strategy and future planning. In other words, delegating can fast-track you to boss mode. David Bowie Labyrinth like a boss  

What is delegating and why is it so important?

In a practical way, delegating is the act of a manager distributing tasks to various members of their team. In a philosophical way, as stated by the Harvard Business Review, delegating is a ‘shift from doing to leading.’ When you delegate effectively you share or transfer responsibilities, moving work around your company in a functional and balanced way. This doesn’t mean that you are wiping your plate clean of any work. Effective delegation is smart, not selfish. You simply can’t do everything by yourself in a company, and delegating can empower your team members to embrace opportunities and help them with professional development. Mastering delegation can be one of the most powerful moves you can make as a manager. Use it to set up your business for success. Need another reason to become a badass delegator? Gallup found that CEOs with great delegation skills generated 33% greater revenue in 2013 than those without this key skill. ⚡ Keen to go deep on effective leadership styles? Watch our exclusive webinar on the subject here.  

When should I delegate?

If you see these red flags popping up during your workday, it may be time to learn how to delegate. Warning: Brace yourself for some real talk. 🚩 You’re doing the work that someone else in your team could be doing, and they have the expertise to do so. A team member of yours might be able to do it even better. 🚩 You find that you don’t have time to do any future thinking or forward planning. Instead you’re caught up in the operational and technical aspects of running your business. 🚩 Priorities in your workload have changed, and the task no longer needs to be a focus for you. 🚩 The task provides an opportunity for a member to grow and develop new skills. It is a recurring task that they could take off your plate and own moving forward. Some scenarios in which you wouldn’t delegate include:

  • Completing a task in which your specific attention is required to be successful.
  • Your team isn’t able to take on any further work (in this case, it could be time to do some hiring!)

Cat working very hard at laptop

This is what happens to your staff when you don’t delegate effectively…

 

How to delegate effectively

1. Find the right person in your team for the job

You’ll feel more confident in handing over your work if you know you can choose the right person for the job. If you have experts in the area, delegating to them is an obvious choice. You may also wish to look further into your team members’ backgrounds to see who may have skills and experience that they are not currently applying in their role. Explore your team’s professional strengths and weaknesses. Alternatively, just ask your staff! Send your team the details of the job at hand to gauge who might like to take it on. You may not be aware that someone has an interest in the task you’re looking to delegate. This could be a great opportunity to develop your workforces’ skills and increase their engagement.  

2. Explain the task or responsibility clearly

The better you do this, the more likely you’ll only have to do it once! Will your employee need a guide with steps written out for them to get the task done properly? Are there tools or programs they will need to use? If it’s a task with a set-out procedure, consider working through it for the first time with them on a program like Zoom and record the session. Not only can your staff member learn how the task is done in real-time (and have a chance to ask questions), they can refer to the recording in the future if they have any uncertainties. This will save time for everyone.  

3. Check in with them occasionally

Emphasis on occasionally (we’ll get more into micromanaging later). Let your staff know that you are there to support them, and check in every once in a while as they get their new responsibility off the ground. Support them as they acquire any new skills, and encourage them to take ownership of the tasks and approach it in a way that works for them. Be ready to be a sounding board every once in a while for new ideas and processes.  

4. Reward and recognise!

So your staff member has taken ownership of a task and totally nailed it? Don’t forget to recognise their awesomeness! As well as personally letting them know how much you appreciate their efforts, be sure to shout them out in your next company-wide meeting! This can also help create a culture of delegation. Lastly, make sure to reward your employees’ great work! Options for rewards span a large spectrum, from promotions and pay rises to company merch, small gifts and the afternoon off. Check out more reward inspo here. Keanu Reeves showing appreciation

Don’t we all want to be appreciated like this?

Ways to avoid a delegation disaster

1. Beware of micromanaging!

If you delegate a tree to a woods but you don’t let it grow autonomously, did you really delegate at all? – Old Workplace Proverb There’s not a lot of point in distributing work to a person if you’re then going to micromanage them as they complete their tasks. Micromanaging is a management style in which an employer closely observes and controls their employee’s work and processes. It involves constantly asking the staff member for updates, over-critiquing their approach to tasks and taking control of their output. This can lead to a pretty nightmarish situation for employees. As expressed by Gallup, ‘Today’s micromanager is likely someone who wants it done exactly their way but provides little context, support, help or advice. It’s easier than ever for a manager to swoop in on an email chain or conference call and make demands without having a full context about what’s happening.’ As well as being incredibly time-consuming, micromanagement can put your team on a fast-track to feelings of stress and distrust. Proper delegating means handing over a task to a staff member and giving them ownership. While you can check in on your employees work from time-to-time, trust in the team you’ve hired and let them handle the task from here. Focus on the outcomes your employees produce, not their work processes.  

2. Get comfortable with giving credit

We’ve all had managers who’ve struggled with giving their employees proper credit, and it’s possible that a manager might feel resentful towards another person for receiving recognition for a project they started. Man blinking in disbelief meme

Don’t let this face happen to you.

This one can be a major hurdle, not just in terms of delegating but also effective management in general. It’s important to remember that when anyone in your business achieves a goal, you all win. See the overall benefits to your business from employee achievements as the ultimate objective, instead of credit being received by a singular manager.  

3. Be involved in recruitment to make sure you hire the best people for your business

You might find it challenging to pass on your tasks if you don’t know your staff very well. A great way to future-proof your delegating is by getting involved in recruitment. If you don’t already, sit in on your candidates’ interviews. Ask them meaningful questions about their professional interests, skills and experience. Seeking out a workforce that has a broad range of abilities will give you more opportunities to delegate in the future. It’s important to look out for soft skills as well as technical skills. Would the incoming employee be game for trying to learn about new areas? Do they have an inquisitive nature about professional development? Ideally your incoming hires would bring an enthusiastic and team-player spirit to the role. If you know your incoming staff members and their unique skills well from the very beginning, you’ll feel more comfortable delegating them work as soon as they start.. Make hiring and onboarding easy with our Applicant Tracking System.  

4. Be across your team’s workloads

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to keep track of your team’s workloads. Allocating extra tasks to someone who’s already juggling a big workload is a recipe for disaster. Consistently overworking can lead to burnout, a very real risk to the workforce. It’s quite common for employees to feel simultaneously passionate about their work and stressed out by their work. Deloitte’s 2015 Workplace Burnout Survey found that 87% of employees felt passionately about their job but 77% had experienced burnout in the role. Your team may want to say yes to as many tasks as possible, but you should encourage transparency around their workloads. If your employee’s plate is full, see if you can shift their priorities or balance work further throughout the team.  

Examples of great delegators

Arianna Huffington

Co-founder of The Huffington Post and founder and CEO of Thrive Global, the superstar businesswoman is a huge advocate of delegating. ‘When we delegate correctly, we don’t shirk responsibility’, said Huffington on LinkedIn. ‘We provide growth opportunities for our colleagues and reduce stress within our teams.’ Ariana Huffington sitting in chair

Ariana Huffington. Image via Boston Magazine

Richard Branson

Did you know that Richard Branson credits his dyslexia for helping him become a great delegator? The Founder of Virgin Group has been a long-time fan of the management practice and has even outlined a 5-Step process for doing it well. ‘Working across so many areas is great because it enables you to learn quickly, broaden your skill set, and tackle challenges head on with confidence,’ writes Branson. ‘But we could never have evolved from a mail-order record retailer to a global brand if I hadn’t learnt how to delegate early on.’  

Bill Gates

The Microsoft founder knows a thing or two about delegating. A major part of his management strategy, Gates says that his key to successful delegation is identifying the right people to take on his challenging tasks. Having delegating in mind from the hiring process, Gates hires people who possess different skill sets to himself. He looks for staff that take his suggestions and come back with ‘Wait, have you tried doing it this way?’ to take his products to the next level.  

Let’s get down and delegate!

Now you know all the information to get started with delegating tasks. Remember that delegating is a tried and tested management technique. Delegating can help you become a more effective leader and help your workforce become more dynamic. In other words, delegating can make you a total boss! Have you ever thought about delegating your HR admin, payroll and benefits to an all-in-one platform? Employment Hero is perfect for the job!   You can use Employment Hero to manage:

  • Recruitment and paperless onboarding
  • HR compliance
  • Visa checks
  • Online timesheets
  • Performance reviews
  • Reporting
  • Employee management
  • Employee engagement
  • Learning and development
  • Reward and recognition
  • Payroll reporting
  • Automated pay runs
  • Lots more!

  Book a demo with one of our business specialists today! Book a demo of Employment Hero

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