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Delegate Your Workload: Go Beyond “Getting It off Your Desk”

You can’t do it all.

You know this, but still, you try.

Even as more work and more responsibility get piled on, you shoulder it.

You might feel that it saves time to just take care of a task yourself. Maybe you doubt that anyone else can do what you do. Or, you could be hanging on to assignments and hovering over tasks because you just don’t have a solid process for delegating.

Whatever is behind your avoidance to delegate your workload, we have some concrete, research-based suggestions that could help.

First, Why Delegate Your Workload?

Delegating tasks, roles, and decisions frees you up for other things and helps prevent you from getting overworked and burnt out. That’s a huge benefit. But when you delegate effectively, you’re opening the door to many other benefits, too. Effective delegation:

  • Enables direct reports to develop as leaders.
  • Contributes to teamwork.
  • Demonstrates trust in your team.
  • Provides employees autonomy, increasing the innovation, communication, and creativity of the team.
  • Can result in better decisions when people who are closer to the problem can solve it.
  • Encourages professional growth and enhances an employee’s value to the organization.

Delegating is not just telling someone what to do or assigning them tasks.  Delegation shows trust in your team and involves giving someone the authority to do something that’s normally part of your job — along with the resources, direction, and support needed to achieve the expected results.

How to Delegate Your Workload More Effectively

4 Tips for Delegating More Thoughtfully

As outlined in our guidebook, Delegating Effectively: A Leader’s Guide to Getting Things Done , effective delegation is not a linear process — it’s a cycle that involves 4 key steps.

1. Understand your preferences for delegation.

Leaders who delegate effectively have prioritized their workload and know why they’re handing off some tasks and holding on to others. They also know themselves and what they want. For example, do you want constant updates or just an update now and then? Will you let the person or team assigned the task determine the process, or must you have it done your way? When you’re clear about your preferences, you can better communicate those needs and expectations to other people.

2. Understand your people .

Effective delegating involves assigning people tasks, responsibilities, and duties that match their knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests. It involves giving assignments that will help them learn to lead . By truly understanding the people you manage, you can effectively identify the individuals to whom you should (or should not) delegate specific tasks.

3. Understand the task and its purpose .

The task is what must be accomplished. The purpose is the reason that the task is being done — it gives meaning to the task. When a leader effectively matches the purpose of a task with a team’s or individual’s beliefs and goals, it becomes an opportunity for development. It also increases their commitment and willingness to go beyond the original assignment if necessary to accomplish the purpose.

4. Share the process for assessing and rewarding accomplishment of the task.

What does successful accomplishment look like? How will you be assessing the task itself and how it’s accomplished? Will you require people or teams to report to you after every step of the project, or will you just ask for a weekly rundown? Will you develop a series of benchmarks you want them to meet with regard to the project? And, when it’s over, or at key points along the way, can you find a way to recognize and reward the people and teams who accomplish what you asked them to do?

A Closing Thought on Delegating Workloads

To delegate your workload effectively, you need practice and patience. When you’re struggling, remember that delegation is key to developing your team members and direct reports to readily accept and excel at a range of challenges — and a hallmark of effective leadership.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Upskill your people’s ability to build trust, establish rapport, and delegate workloads successfully  with a customized learning journey for your leaders using our research-backed modules. Available leadership topics include Collaboration & Teamwork, Creating Accountability, Delegating Effectively , Psychological Safety & Trust, and more.

December 2, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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