As the leader of an organization with your finger on the pulse, it can be easy to fall into the trap of doing everything yourself. But in order to be truly effective in your role, as well as help team members grow in their individual roles, you’ll want to develop and hone a very important skill in your leadership toolkit: delegating.
While most leaders understand the concept of delegating and may even be savvy to how much it will increase overall productivity within the organization, many struggle with how to actually start. In fact, according to London Business School professor John Hunt, only 30 percent of managers believe they can delegate well and, in turn, only ⅓ of those is considered a good delegator by their subordinates.
It may take some time to adjust to letting others have control of certain processes, but when you figure out how to delegate well, the results are incredibly freeing and rewarding. Here are some simple steps to help you begin.
Set Strategic Priorities
Taking an assessment of your strategic priorities can be a good starting block in delegating. Taking some time to decide where you add the most value to the organization and what your specific skill set includes can allow you to figure out which tasks should be taken off of your plate as soon as possible. You’ll also be more aware of what tasks you (and only you) should be dedicating your time to.
Create a List
Review your inbox, calendar, to-do lists and meeting agendas from the past month or two. Which items are taking away from your top priorities? Now that you know what tasks you can offload, list them out and prioritize them by asking yourself two questions:
How easy is this task to transfer to someone else?
How much of my time will this free up?
Once you’ve considered these questions, you can categorize your tasks into four quadrants:
You’ll want to work right to left, bottom to top. Hand off the “Easy to transfer/lots of time freed up” items first, followed by the “Easy to transfer/not much time freed up” and the “Hard to transfer/lots of time freed up.” Don’t bother handing off tasks that fall under the “Hard to transfer/not much time freed up” because delegating these won’t actually make you more productive.
Now that you’re armed with a list of tasks that you can delegate, your next step is to develop a clear outline of the following for each of the tasks you plan to delegate:
Who will it go to?
How long will it take them (on a one-time or ongoing basis)?
Do they have bandwidth to take it on, and if not, what should they de-prioritize to do it?
What is the timeline for transfer?
What info do they need to know?
What is the process for hand-off (meeting one-on-one, email, file transfer, etc.)?
Having these questions answered ahead of time ensures that you have very clear directives for your team members from the get-go, allowing them to thrive in taking on their new responsibilities.
Delegate and Follow-up
You’re all set to hand off tasks and you’ve made sure to clearly define objectives, responsibilities and timelines. Now it’s time to communicate that information clearly and effectively with the team members involved. Make sure they are aware of what they’re taking on and that they can come to you with any questions, but also empower them with your confidence in their ability to take on any new responsibilities.
Set a check-in date for each item and each person (if you’re delegating to more than one), so that you can review their work together and provide performance feedback. If the task is long term or ongoing, set regular dates on the calendar to continue to check in as needed.
Rinse and Repeat
Go through this delegating exercise at least a couple times per year to ensure you are continuing to stay focused on your priorities and letting go of what you can. If, at any time, you find you have more to delegate than your team members can take on, consider getting additional help. CEOs often turn to an executive assistant for logistical tasks they want to delegate and a chief of staff for more operational or strategic items.
Delegating, when done effectively, can truly lead to a win-win-win strategy: you win by freeing up more time for high-priority tasks, your team member wins by learning new skills and growing in their perspective, positioning themselves for the next level, and the organization wins by spreading tasks throughout and building on everyone’s strengths.