Delegating is when you reassign work to other team members because it’s more relevant to their workstreams and priorities. If you’re getting started with team or project management, it can be intimidating to delegate work. It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what or how to delegate. In this article, we’ll walk you through when to delegate, and give you 10 tips to help you delegate work effectively.
Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can do as a manager is to delegate work. Not only does delegating work give you more time to focus on high-impact tasks, it also gives your team members a chance to get involved in interesting projects.
But knowing what—and how—to delegate can be daunting for new managers. Delegating is a leadership skill you can develop over time. In this article, we’ll walk you through 10 tips to help you become a better delegator.
Delegation is the act of redirecting tasks and initiatives to other team members. You might delegate work to distribute responsibility more evenly, or because the task or initiative is more relevant to another team member’s priorities, skills, or interests.
Knowing when and how to delegate makes you a better manager. Not only does delegating help you get your high-impact work done, but it also gives team members an opportunity to get involved in interesting projects. Effective delegation builds team skills and allows team members to develop new strengths.
Delegating work is important for two main reasons: maximizing personal productivity and showing your team that you trust them with important work. The whole is more powerful than the individual—with effective delegation, you can accomplish more together as a team than you can alone.
Successful delegation also helps prevent burnout and overwork. It isn’t your job to do all of the work. Instead, as a manager, you’re responsible for seeing the big picture in order to delegate the right tasks to the right people. Building your delegation skills is all about understanding a given initiative’s desired results and allocating work to different members of your team based on their varied skill sets.
Knowing when to delegate responsibility to other team members is a great way to become a more effective leader. This important management skill offers key development opportunities for your team members. Depending on the type of tasks you delegate, delegation can help you build new team skill sets and monitor progress towards professional development goals.Read: Leadership vs. management: What’s the difference?
It can be difficult to know what to delegate, especially if you’re a first-time manager. Some people struggle to delegate because they:
Worry that it’ll take more time to explain how to do the work than to do it themselves
Don’t understand the priority of the work
Want to work on interesting projects themselves
Feel guilty about assigning more work to other people
Aren’t sure who else can do this work
Want to feel important to their team
There isn’t just one straightforward scenario for when you should delegate work. But in general, ask yourself a few questions in order to determine if this work is beneficial to delegate.
Questions to ask before delegating tasks:
Is this work more aligned with another team member’s priorities?
Is there someone else who has the information and context to do this work?
Is this work an opportunity for someone else to grow and develop their skills?
Will this work recur in the future?
Do I have time to effectively delegate this work, including training the other person, answering their questions, and reviewing their work?
Is this something I should personally work on (because it’s high-impact or business critical)?
Would failure impact the success of the project?
Do we have time to re-do the work if necessary?
You don’t need to answer “yes” to all of these questions in order to delegate work. But asking yourself these questions before delegating work helps you identify the best work to delegate.
Learning to delegate work makes you a better manager and allows your team members to get involved in exciting projects. Try these 10 tips to get started with the delegation process:
Not everything can be delegated. Some work is strategic or business critical, and would benefit from your personal attention. Before you begin delegating work, evaluate the importance of the work and the implications of delegating it.
That isn’t to say you can’t delegate important tasks. If there’s another team member with the context, experience, or skill set to do this work effectively, delegating it might be a good option. But keep in mind that achieving a good end result is still your responsibility.
Good work to delegate includes:
Work that will recur in the future: If you have a recurring task, it’s often worth delegating it to someone else who has the time and energy to do the job well.
Work that aligns with team member’s interests: If a team member has expressed interest in developing a new skill or honing an existing one, see if there’s any work you can delegate to them to help them build those skills.
Work that connects to team member’s goals: One of the best ways to delegate is to assign work that connects to a team member’s professional goals.
Delegating can be difficult for first-time managers and leaders because you’re putting important work into someone else’s hands. You probably feel connected to your work and responsible for it getting done well.
Learning to delegate is a critical skill, but you also shouldn’t be uncomfortable every time you delegate. So instead, practice handing off small types of work at first, before building up to bigger projects. Be patient—both with yourself and your team members. It will take time to build your delegation skills. In the same vein, team members may take longer to get this work done than you would. But by delegating work, you’re giving team members the opportunity to develop their skills over time and also taking one more thing off your plate.
Understanding the priority—and difficulty—of tasks makes it easier for you to delegate. If something is high priority, it needs to get done soon—either by you or by someone else. Depending on the type of work, you can then make the decision to do it yourself or to delegate.
The best way to clarify priorities is to connect work to team and company goals. When you and your team have clarity on why your work matters, it’s easier to effectively prioritize and get high-impact work done. If you haven’t already, do this by putting all of your team’s work into a shared source of truth, like a project management tool. That way, everyone has direct visibility into who’s doing what by when and why.Try project management with Asana
Part of delegating is making sure the person you’re handing work off to is set up for success. Effective delegation has two elements: delegating work to team members who have skills in that area, and giving team members opportunities to develop new skills.
To do this, make sure you clearly understand each team member’s strengths—as well as their interests. Take some time during your next 1:1 meeting to ask them what skills they currently have that they want to develop further, as well as what skills they want to develop that they don’t currently have.Read: The difference between hard skills and soft skills: Examples from 14 Asana team members
When you hand off work, make sure the person taking on the task is set up for success. This includes:
Guidance on how to get the work done
The due date for the delegated task
Context, documents, and details about the work
Tools required to get the job done
The priority, goals, and expectations of the work
The desired outcome
Any related work
Keep in mind that this work might be easy for you to do, but it might be totally new to the person you’re delegating the work to. Take some time to walk them through the assignment and answer any questions they have before they get started to ensure they’re set up for success.
There may be work that no one on your team can do but you. Some managers think that means they can’t delegate the work. But depending on your priorities, it’s often better to train team members how to do the work so they can tackle those assignments moving forward.
Training takes time—so it’s tempting to just do it yourself. But think of training as an investment in your team members and your own workload. Over time, you’ll recoup the time you spent training since the person will be able to do work. Delegating time-consuming tasks is a great way to build your own time management skills, while also giving team members new opportunities.
Part of training someone else how to do the work is to give them space to solve problems instead of immediately providing a solution. If the team member doing the work does hit a roadblock, ask questions to prompt how they think they can overcome the roadblock. Instead of providing solutions, try asking the other person for suggestions in order to help them build their own decision-making skills and guide them towards the right answer.
Delegating work is a really good opportunity for two-way feedback and communication. Make sure the person you’ve delegated work to has a way to contact you with any questions, and set up a regular check in, like a 1:1 meeting, where you can review things in more detail.
Provide feedback on their work for any future tasks you send their way. Also, ask for feedback from them—did you give them enough information to succeed? Were there any open questions that would have made getting the work done easier? Keep in mind that delegation is a long-term skill you’re beginning to build, so soliciting feedback helps set you up for long-term success.Read: How to give and take constructive criticism
When you delegate work, the goal isn’t to have the team member do the work exactly like you would have done it. It’s okay if someone does something differently than you if they achieve the desired results.
As you delegate and coach team members through work, avoid spending too much time explaining how things should be done. Instead, focus on the end goal, and give the team member the space to come up with their own process for doing the work. This gives them the space to develop their own skills, and also demonstrates that you trust them with the responsibility of figuring out how to do the work.
Once you’ve delegated work, try to take a step back and give the team member the space they need to do the work. Check in with them periodically to make sure they don’t need any additional support, while also being hands-off enough to show your team that you trust them.
Ultimately, however, you’re responsible for the success of the work. If it’s your first time delegating this type of work, implement a review cycle or follow-up period to review the work that was done, and nudge it in the right direction if necessary.
Effectively delegating work gives other team members the opportunity to develop new skills and get involved in important projects. Once the work is completed, make sure the team member who did the work is credited for completing the task.
Other cross-functional team members might give you credit for the work, especially if it’s something you’ve done in the past. Make sure you aren’t taking credit for someone else’s work, and take some time to appreciate your team member for a job well done.
Delegating work is a great way to not only build your personal management skills, but to support professional development across your team. To set your co-workers up for success, make sure they have all of the information they need to get the delegated task done correctly.
If you haven’t already, do this with a project management tool. A shared source of truth, like a project management tool, gives team members increased visibility and unlimited access to the context they need to get good work done.Try project management with Asana