Career Advice: How to Delegate Effectively

Woman with lots of reminder notes

Perfectionists like me want to think that we can handle it all. Trusting others with our work can be difficult, as we pride ourselves on our ability to get it done the way it should be done. After all, multi-tasking is the mark of genius, right? But part of being effective is learning when and how to pass along work that others can do just as well as, if not even better, than we can do ourselves. This applies to both the workplace and school projects. If the word “delegate” causes a cold, hard knot in the pit of your stomach, here are a few thoughts on how you can warm up to the process.

The Delegation Mindset

You’ve worked hard, and now you’re reaping the benefits of your efforts with a promotion. But the more responsibility you have, the more help you’re going to eventually need. As people take notice of your good work, the more they’re going to ask of you. There are a finite number of hours in the day and whether you’re leading a student group at school or taking on new challenges at the office, one of the crucial things you’re going to need in order to make a success of your new position is a team with whom you can share the tasks at hand. Delegating doesn’t mean you can’t do something – it’s not a sign of weakness or failure. It simply means that you recognize the values of efficiency and putting your energy into the tasks that need the most attention, and letting others help you accomplish that by taking on some of your workload.

Team Spirit

One of the ways to build an effective team is to trust them. By giving them more responsibility, you demonstrate that you respect your co-workers and value their work. By expanding their duties, you give them the opportunity to learn and grow, which in turn builds loyalty to both the company and to you. It can be very frustrating to work somewhere with or for people who won’t let you expand your horizons. And it’s why people often leave jobs.

It’s All in the Timing

Delegating will generally take up more time at the beginning as you are setting up a project, but ultimately will save you time in the long run as those you work with become more familiar with your needs and expectations. Be patient when first starting out – it’s to everyone’s benefit to make sure that all the information needed for a task or project is clearly communicated. Make sure you allot room in the schedule for training and questions. Also, if you have samples from previous work, provide them as references. Lastly, if you have time, let your associates attempt a “practice run” before they need to complete a task for an actual client. Then you can discuss their results together, and you’ll be in great shape when the work needs to go public.

Communicate with Clarity

Just because you’re allowing someone else to take over a few of the tasks you previously did yourself doesn’t mean you should absent yourself from the process altogether. Agree on a check-in schedule that allows you to be comfortable that things are on track, and gives your co-worker or fellow students the opportunity to ask questions or bring up challenges. It’s also important to agree on the form of communication, some of which may be dictated by the nature of the project. Would you prefer a daily email or a weekly meeting in person? Do you want progress notes sent to you or would you prefer to be available at any time via phone? And if trading documents or files is going to be part of the work process, set up a system such as Dropbox or workign with Google Docs that works technologically for all involved.

Delegating with Class

Once you’ve taken the plunge into delegating, here are a few things to keep in mind to keep the process running smoothly:

  • Don’t delegate anything you’re not willing to do yourself.
  • Start small – if delegating makes you nervous, test the waters with a less crucial project.
  • Be as specific as possible when explaining what or how you’d like someone to do something.
  • Mistakes will happen – leave time for edits and corrections.
  • Give credit to the entire team. Even if your name is ultimately the one on the front page of the report.