The ability to delegate effectively is one of the most powerful skills that separates successful leaders from those whose businesses fall short of their goals. Gallup found that entrepreneurs who are skilled delegators earn more revenue, achieve faster growth, and create more jobs than those who don’t delegate or who do so poorly.
Despite the benefits of delegation, many business leaders avoid it due to reasons including:
- They think they are the only people who can do tasks correctly
- They don’t want to slow down and teach others how to do tasks
- They don’t realize that refusing to delegate prevents them from giving their full attention to strategic activities
To achieve your business goals, you need to abandon those objections and master the process of delegation. Here’s how.
Brainstorm Tasks that You Want to Delegate
For most leaders, the hardest thing about delegation is letting go of control and deciding what tasks to offload. If you can’t think of any responsibilities that are safe to delegate to others, you need to take a step back and brainstorm a list of tasks that:
- Do not require your authority, expertise or relationships
- Are process-oriented
- Are urgent and/or important but don’t create a lot of value
Tasks that meet these criteria are perfect for delegation because they pull your attention away from strategic activities, and their repetitive nature makes it easy for others to complete them successfully.
Still don’t know where to begin? Here are some of the most common tasks that business leaders delegate:
- Data entry and cleaning
- Travel, expenses, and scheduling
- Professional network management
- Document preparation
And other tedious tasks that need to be done to keep your business running.
Delegate to the Right People
Choosing the right person to delegate to is arguably the most important step of the delegation process. It affects whether your projects will be completed effectively and your relationships with the people you delegate too.
When deciding who you should delegate too, ask yourself these questions:
- Do they have the time to take on additional work? If they’re already extremely busy, they’re likely to rush through the extra work and make mistakes. To avoid this, find someone who has the time or give them a flexible deadline.
- Do they have the skills to complete the work accurately? If they don’t, you have to decide if it’s worth training them how to do it. If not, you need to find someone who already has the skills.
- Does the work make sense for their level of expertise? The last thing you want to do is delegate tedious admin tasks to your top performers. Not only will it distract them from their key projects, but it’s also likely to stir resentment since they rightfully feel like they should focus on higher-value projects.
Asking yourself these questions should give you an idea of whom you can delegate different kinds of work to.
If you have a lean team and all of your subordinates work long hours to build the business, consider hiring a virtual assistant through a managed service. For a flat monthly rate, you get an assistant whom you can delegate 2.5 hours worth of tedious work to a day and an Engagement Manager who manages your VA, so you don’t have to.
Contact us for a consultation to explore if a virtual assistant is right for you.
Provide Objective Instructions
The process of delegation is only valuable if the people you delegate to complete your tasks correctly and on time. To set your team up for success, you need to remember that they are not mind-readers. If you want your tasks completed in a specific way, you have to provide objective instructions.
To avoid confusion, include the following information when delegating tasks:
- What you want them to do
- How you want them to do it (if applicable)
- When you need it done by
- Any other preferences you want them to follow
Though this sounds like a lot of effort, in most cases, your instructions only need to be a couple of sentences. Here’s an example of what you could say to delegate finding an event venue:
Please find a venue downtown that is available all day on May 1st, has capacity for 50 guests, and offers in-house catering for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The budget is $15,000, including food and set-up.
Instructions like these are super-specific and easy to follow but require very little effort to create.
Create Processes for Ongoing Tasks
One of the best ways to use delegation to boost your productivity is to offload ongoing tasks. This allows you to give instructions once and focus on your core responsibilities while tasks continue to be completed in the background.
To get started, think of all the repetitive tasks that you do regularly. These are perfect to create processes for since their lack of ambiguity makes it easy for someone else to take over without you having to explain what to do each time.
Here are some popular examples:
- Workflow management
- Data entry & cleaning
Once you’ve created your list, create a screen recording of yourself doing each task and/or write out your steps. Double-check that you explained every step so that the person you delegate to knows exactly what to do. Then, share the instructions with someone who has the capacity to tackle the task indefinitely.
Give Constructive Feedback
Even if you make an effort to provide clear instructions, occasional miscommunications are inevitable. Instead of getting angry or letting mistakes slide, provide constructive feedback that helps your employees perform better next time.
For your feedback to be effective, it needs to:
- State what they did wrong
- Explain how you want them to improve
- Reinforce what success looks
Providing this kind of clear feedback helps the people you delegate to gain a clear understanding of your preferences so that, over time, miscommunications become less frequent and severe.
Express Your Gratitude
Research shows that there is a strong correlation between employee performance and how appreciated they feel. Though they’re expected to complete the tasks you delegate, your team is doing you a huge favor by doing them. Without them tackling your tedious tasks, you wouldn’t have nearly as much time to focus on the strategic activities that drive your success.
Expressing gratitude toward the people you delegate to ensures that they remain motivated to complete your tasks as efficiently and accurately as possible.
Here are some simple ways to show you’re grateful:
- Say thank you when they complete a task. It’s simple yet so few managers do it.
- Give them a small gift after a particularly busy period.
- Recognize them at a team meeting.
- Provide positive feedback after a job well done.
Remember that the process of delegation is just like any other leadership exercise. You need to start with a strategy, communicate it effectively, and celebrate your team’s successes. If you do that, you’ll be able to reap the productivity benefits of delegation without sacrificing morale.
About the Author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.