79% of employees who quit say that lack of appreciation and poor leadership were significant parts of the decision.
But despite that, many leaders today still struggle with finding a balance between managing their employees and allowing them to accomplish tasks independently.
As a leader, the how of reaching a goal can be just as important (if not more) than reaching the goal itself. That’s because even when you get everything done, if you do it in a way that undermines or excludes your team, that sets a poor precedent and develops bad habits for the future.
And that’s why developing an effective delegation model in your leadership style is so essential.
To help you with that, let’s look at why you should delegate more and the best practices of doing it. But first, let’s define what delegation in leadership is.
What is Delegation?
Delegation is the process of transferring responsibilities and tasks from one person to another, usually from a superior or manager to an employee.
But it’s not just about giving more work for your team. If you just dumped tasks on your employees just because you could, that wouldn’t do any good for them or the company.
Instead, a good delegation model in leadership is about finding the most effective way to allocate tasks within the team, helping people showcase their strengths, gain new skills, and move forward while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the project.
That also means that the leader must carefully evaluate each member of the team and the task at hand, thinking about how to allocate the work based on each person’s strengths and growth potential.
At the same time, the leader must recognize their own limits, even in areas they enjoy. Sometimes, an employee might simply be more knowledgeable or experienced in a particular area, so a good leader must be willing to recognize that for the sake of the project’s ultimate success.
Effective delegation is also not about micromanaging the work of others; it only works when you can explain what you want clearly but then allow the person to develop their own path to the solution.
Finding the right balance for delegating tasks does take time, but it can become the most powerful tool in a leader’s arsenal.
Instead of having to micromanage every detail of the project or plow through countless tasks themselves, a good delegation model allows finding the fastest and most useful way to move forward in any situation while also freeing up the time of the leader for the tasks that they can add the most value with.
Why is Delegation Important in Leadership?
Learning how to use the right delegation model with your team takes time and effort. At first, it might even make going through tasks more difficult, as you’ll need to learn more about your team members and allow them to work through challenges that you might not face yourself.
However, in the long run, the importance of delegation in leadership far outweighs any initial hurdles.
For one thing, a company is only as strong as its employees are capable. And providing more autonomy in the form of delegating more advanced tasks will help your team become more independent in handling bigger responsibilities on their own.
Leaders should be willing teachers, and a big part of teaching someone is allowing them to make mistakes and figure out how to approach a problem independently.
Another reason why a delegation model works so well is the freedom it can provide for leaders themselves. Juggling too many projects or tasks requires making sacrifices in higher-level areas that a leader has to manage, such as strategy, planning, and idea development.
Meanwhile, if you can trust your team to take care of their job without you standing over their shoulder, you can take a step back and think about the bigger picture, giving your team broader goals and allowing them to work things out.
Over time, the autonomy and fulfillment of having tasks delegated to them can even play a role in employee retention, so the benefits of a delegating leadership style are much more impactful than they might seem initially.
Sure, this approach can be difficult for leaders that like to control every aspect of a project. But if you want your team members to make fewer mistakes, it’s actually better to let them fail and learn from those experiences instead of hovering over them and preventing the learning opportunities from even happening.
Finally, as a leader, one of your main concerns should be to make the workplace as efficient as possible. And that means that each person should have the ability to complete their work independently.
An integral part of that process is building a culture of trust, where employees know that they can make decisions on their own and even take calculated risks in situations where that can pay off.
As the book Drive by Daniel H. Pink explores, intrinsic motivation is dependent on an employee’s ability to find solutions to problems themselves. And many forward-thinking companies even take autonomy to another level by giving teams time each week to work on whatever independent projects they are passionate about.
Delegation Best Practices
Effective delegation can change the entire company’s future. But only if it’s implemented the right way and actually helps employees instead of acting as a crutch that hinders progress.
Just as with any leadership technique, developing a working delegation model requires time and an understanding of what decisions to make in a given situation.
And that’s where following the best practices of delegation can be so useful.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the fundamental principles that any delegation approach should follow, which should provide you with a solid starting point you can work with when implementing delegation in your management style.
Consider What to Delegate
One of the most challenging things to figure out when delegating is finding the right tasks to assign versus doing them yourself. As a leader, you’ll be tempted to carry a bigger load than necessary just because you feel like you’re more familiar with what needs to be done.
To make things easier, shift the perspective from what you could do to what others could do. Consider people’s strengths, experiences, as well as growth opportunities that would suit their situation, and try to match members of your team with tasks that can help them improve and become better.
However, don’t develop the habit of delegating too much. Even if your team is capable, you should carefully think about how much each member should have on their plate and be ready to step in yourself or reshuffle assignments when the workload becomes too much.
Clearly Explain the Task
Successful delegation in management isn’t just about the task itself. It’s also about how you frame the task and how well you can explain it.
That’s why, when assigning someone a new task, take the time to explain to them why you’ve decided to give it to them and not someone else. That will help put some context for the task itself and provide the person a better understanding of what you expect and why they are right for the job.
Also, be sure to clearly communicate all of the crucial details surrounding the task, such as deadlines, any special considerations, the results you expect, and even your take on how the task could go. That last one should be handled carefully, though, as you want to make it clear that the employee has the authority to make their own decisions autonomously.
Don’t Punish Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. Not just employees but team leaders as well. So when they do occur, it’s important to not treat the outcome as the end of the world and instead try to find the best way to turn it into a growth opportunity.
Sit down with the person who made a mistake and try to go through their entire process, talking about why they made certain decisions and trying to understand their thinking process.
Then, you’ll be able to see whether you’d have done something differently or if it was just an unfortunate outcome outside of the employee’s control. If you would have approached it another way, you can then explain your reasoning for what you’ve done and offer pointers for what they could do if the same situation occurs again.
Finally, if you want your employees to be motivated when tasked with challenging assignments, make sure to show plenty of appreciation when they exceed expectations and do a great job.
Being able to delegate tasks can be a game-changer for leaders because it allows focusing on the bigger-picture issues while also boosting productivity, which helps the company move forward.
Therefore, when you delegate a task, and a person comes through, that’s definitely the right moment to offer praise or even a reward since that will set a good precedent for the future and will show employees that you know how hard they work.
That also means that you can’t be too hard on the people you entrust with handling tasks independently. Even if it takes a bit longer or they make a mistake, treat those situations as learning opportunities that, despite the outcome, will serve the company well in the future.
Developing a successful delegation model takes time. Even the best leaders sometimes struggle with allowing their employees to be independent and find their own solution to a problem, but putting that trust in the people you work with is the only way to progress and help the entire team evolve as well.
In my course, Managing Happiness, you can become part of a group of like-minded leaders who will help you overcome the challenges that come with delegation. You will also have access to coaches and Zoom calls to provide expert insights about how you could better realize your purpose as a leader in a modern business environment.
What are some of your biggest challenges with delegation? And what have you found to make the process easier? Share in the comments below!