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The Art of Delegation By Darcy Douglas

Delegation is one of the most powerful tools leaders can use to help elevate their careers and the careers of those around them, when used correctly it helps both parties to flourish and achieve their objectives.

When people hear the word ‘delegation’, they may think it means giving monotonous tasks or basic administrative work to someone else. However, when used correctly, delegation can transform careers, as it empowers both the delegator and delegate with the opportunity to learn new skills, maximize productivity, and develop leadership skills.

What is delegation in the workplace?

Delegation is about organizing work so that individuals and teams’ performance and capacity increases. It’s a tool that can be applied to almost anyone and it enables people to grow, thrive, and work at their highest potential.

Anything can be delegated, and proactively thinking about delegation ensures that leaders create opportunities for their teams to develop their skills. This means team members will start to lead on projects they would otherwise not be involved in and broadens the skillset and portfolio of each team member.

Don’t make excuses – just delegate!

Delegation can be uncomfortable because of perceived loss of control and concerns around quality. These concerns, alongside team capacity, can put leaders off delegating tasks, but in the long-term this hinders professional development and team productivity. Empowering team members introduces creativity and enables new improvements to emerge organically which can then be applied to different projects, all while increasing job satisfaction.

Who to delegate to?

When delegating, leaders should start with high performers who they can trust and who will both embrace and enjoy the challenge it presents. These individuals will embrace the decision making responsibility associated with the new tasks and projects which ultimately improves their skills while giving leaders the time to focus on other tasks.

However, it’s also critical to delegate to low performers to give them the opportunity to develop into higher performers, but they may need more guidance and involvement from leadership to fulfill the tasks. Leaders should look for tasks they will enjoy, define clear objectives and measure progress on an ongoing basis.

For both low and high performers, it’s critical to ensure there are consequences if expectations are missed and that feedback is both clear and actionable. If individuals are provided with the combination of opportunity and structure, most people will thrive while also freeing up more time.

Failure happens – and that’s okay!

It’s important to recognize that delegated tasks will sometimes result in failure, which makes a reflectory period critical for both the leader and the team member to learn and make improvements.. As a leader, it’s critical to factor in time for failure, and be patient with the process.

What happens when things go wrong?

Giving individuals ownership means giving them the space to make mistakes, even if it seems obvious to the leader. The goal is to step in, provide guidance and clarity when necessary, and let the individual get back on track. However, stepping in too early can disempower people, eroding both their confidence and enthusiasm for the task.

This requires leting go – just a bit – in order to really let this individual reach their best. The best leaders are the ones who delegate, give their teams the chance to take on more responsibility, and become leaders themselves. True leaders create leaders – it’s a win-win for everyone!

Become outcome-oriented

Leaders should still take full ownership for the outcome and what success looks like, which ultimately reduces the risk of missed expectations. By clearly defining the end result, delegatees can envision the final completed project and ensure that what they do hits the mark. It’s crucial to avoid micromanagement and allow the employee the chance to find their own way to complete the task. Creating intermediate outcomes is a critical lever for ensuring that things remain on track during longer projects to ensure teams hit the final outcome.

No one to delegate to? No problem

Future inspiring leaders should strive for opportunities to be delegated to, which gives opportunity to learn, grow and work at a higher level. Delegatees can learn critical leadership skills about how to delegate simply by observing how their leaders delegate to them.

Individuals who want to reach the top of their career should delegate smart, delegate often and delegate well. It will be a challenge at first, but mastery of the skill will open up future opportunities and value.

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