What is Delegating a Task and How to do it Effectively?

What is Delegating a Task?

Delegating a task is much than instructing someone to do something. In delegating a task, you aim to inspire the best performance your team members have in them.

To attract that best performance, you must be an encourager, a teacher, and a coach. Your team members must know they have your support and that you trust them to do their best work.

Why is it Important?

Effective delegation is important because, through your leadership, you can produce multiples of what you can with your own direct effort. Delegation is one of the most effective tools you have to do this.

Why Managers Fail to Delegate

First, let’s make a clear distinction. Leaders are much more than managers. Managers concern themselves with things – budgets, tasks, tools, etc. Leaders must manage some of those things, but their primary concern is with people. People respond very poorly when they’re treated like things.

From that distinction, it should be clear that the the two roles need very different skills. Managers manipulate things and command certain actions, as with a computer. Leaders give their teams an example to follow in the way they approach and address a task. They may or may not have the skills they expect of their team.

Managers fail to delegate because:

  • They don’t trust people to do the right thing.
  • They don’t trust their capability to communicate what they want done.
  • They operate with the belief that “If I want it done right, I have to do it myself.” A very short-sighted attitude!

We must understand that the leader’s task is different from the work they expect from their team members. Often, the best leaders know little or nothing about the “nuts and bolts” of their team’s work. They know very well the result they want but hire experts in the detail work that achieves that result, and they trust them to do it.

Think about the most effective leaders of great conglomerate corporations. Do you think they know how to produce the products and services the company sells? Of course not! Yet, they lead teams of thousands to great success.

They do this in part by delegating areas of responsibility to department heads, who delegate details of the department’s responsibilities to team leaders, who delegate tasks to their team members. Depending on the mission’s complexity, there may be more layers than this, but you can see the pattern.

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively

To delegate tasks effectively, a leader must:

  • Be sure the assignment is clearly understood by the person responsible for it. Get them to feed back what they understand about their responsibility.
  • Encourage and answer any questions about what they’re to do.
  • Provide the resources they need to achieve the desired result.
  • Establish a schedule for monitoring progress – depending on the task’s complexity and length or term, it could be hourly, daily, weekly, or even longer intervals.
  • Make clear your readiness to discuss or answer questions about the task
  • Walk away! This may be the most important step and, for some, the most difficult. “Looking over people’s shoulders” is the surest way to tell them you don’t trust them. People who are not trusted quickly learn not to trust themselves, and they do inferior work. Or, if they recognize what’s happening and have the necessary self-confidence, they leave.

Happy leadership!

Note: Archived issues of The Unity Community are available here. Search that page for keywords representing your particular interest. Most articles offer suggestions for ways of improving business and personal relationships. Keep in mind that business is done by…people. Every business concern is essentially an inter-personal concern. 

A “Shot in the Arm” Every Day!

Eric Lofholm, my friend, mentor and sales coach, hosts a 15-minute motivational call every business day. (For a short time, he switched to doing the call weekly, and it seems nobody liked it.)  The call is at 7:45 AM Pacific time. Register for it here. You’ll find instructions on how to join the call on Facebook, Zoom, by phone, or on a recording. 

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