By K.T. Bernhagen | The Daily Muse
When I began my career, I was a complete and total control freak. I just knew that if I handled everything myself, it would get done faster, better, and more efficiently. Delegating to others would mean wasting time, losing control of my projects, and worst of all, showing weakness in my ability to get the job done.
Or so I thought.
But over time and after many frustrations, I've realized the error of my ways. Delegating to others is not only helpful, it's crucial to your success. As you advance in your career and begin taking on larger and larger projects, you won't be able to juggle all of your responsibilities and keep up with a high standard of work, too. Yes, delegating may take more effort up front, but in the long term, it will save you time and allow you to focus on the bigger, more important aspects of your work.
Plus, sharing the responsibilities will help you create a more productive, competent, and confident team. Allowing your team members to assist sends a clear message that you have faith in them, you value their skills, and you want them to succeed and grow in their careers, too.
If letting go isn't quite your strong suit, try these six tips from a born-again delegator:
1. Decide What to Delegate
If you're just dipping your toes in the delegating water, start with a small project, or one that doesn't have to be completed in a specific way. Don't assign your most critical, time-sensitive tasks, and leave ample time for mistakes to happen (that means don't pass off something at 5 PM on Thursday when it needs to be on your boss' desk first thing Friday morning). Most importantly, never delegate something you're not willing to do yourself -- that's the fastest way to lose your team's respect.
2. Pick the Right People
Choosing the best people on your team for the job is the key to effective delegating. Of course, select people who you're confident can do the job well and who are self-motivated and comfortable working without constant supervision. But also take time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the members of your team (and yours, too!), and keep them in mind as you are assigning projects.
If you know someone is a better editor than you are, why not pass along the document you have to proofread? If a team member is admittedly weak in PowerPoint, don't ask her to put together the big presentation. As you learn the strengths and weaknesses of your team, delegating will become easier and less time-intensive.
3. Communicate Clearly
Open, clear communication from the get-go is absolutely crucial to ensuring that the projects you delegate will be done well. From the very beginning of the project, be up-front about your expectations, including timelines and deliverables, and give your team members all of the information they need to achieve those goals. It can be helpful to put everything in writing or provide people with a template or guidelines for the project--the more direction you give them, the more likely they'll come back with what you're looking for.
4. Check in, but Don't Be Overbearing
Once you delegate a task, give your team members flexibility on how they get it done (unless, of course, there's a specific protocol or procedure). Dominating a project with an overbearing presence doesn't encourage anyone to succeed--and certainly won't win you any Boss of the Year nominations.
But do check in periodically to make sure everyone is on the right track and to offer to answer questions as needed. Try using systems like shared Google docs and spreadsheets or having periodic team meetings to keep everyone on the same page and moving forward.
5. Be Patient and Understanding
While delegating will take work off your plate in the long run, be prepared to take extra time out of your schedule and answer lots of questions at the beginning. Just be patient--as you learn how your team works best, and as they learn your expectations, things will get easier.
Also, remember that mistakes will happen. Be understanding, but also address problems when they arise, so that your team members can learn from them and do things differently next time.
6. Share in Rewards and Give Credit Where Due
Taking all of the credit for a project that others assisted with is a great way to make sure they'll never want to help you out again. Be sure to recognize and thank anyone who's helped you out, and make your whole team (not just yourself) looks good for doing the job well. And if you receive any rewards or accolades for the project, share them.
Delegating definitely takes practice--to this day, I am forever learning from my teams. But sharing responsibilities has created a sense of community within those teams and produced amazing success that I now know I never would have realized on my own.
Do you delegate? What tips do you have for delegating success?
For more career advice, visit the Daily Muse:
5 Ways to Take on More Responsibility at Work
Management 101: Motivating Your Team
5 Steps to Giving Good Feedback
K.T. is an entrepreneur and student at St. Catherine’s University. She is co-founder and Vice President of Percoa, Inc., a green company specializing in stormwater management, pollution reduction, and erosion control.