Despite the benefits, many managers still feel uneasy about delegating. The idea of delegation conjures a number of common concerns but getting good at and comfortable with delegation is one of the major skills you must learn and practise in order to be as effective as you can be, both individually and as a team or business.



Despite the benefits to all involved, many managers still feel uneasy about delegating. If this is your first leadership role, you may be reluctant to delegate the types of tasks that gave you your star power, such as mentoring junior employees. If you’ve been a leader for a while, you might shy away from delegating because you’ve had a bad experience with it, such as a team member not taking responsibility for assignments or missing deadlines. The idea of delegation conjures a number of common concerns but getting good at and comfortable with delegation is one of the major skills you must learn and practise in order to be as effective as you can be both individually and as a team or business.

By the end of this masterclass you will have an understanding of how you feel about delegation and what’s been holding you back, you will feel confident enough to delegate and you will be able to do so without causing offence or feeling as though you’re imposing excess workload on others.

Gaining proficiency at delegating work can take time and experimentation, but over the long run your fears should dissipate as you hone your skills and your staff gains confidence and expands its capabilities.

The Reasons People Don’t Delegate and Why Learning to Delegate Is Important

As a new manager you can get away with holding on to work. Peers and bosses may even admire your willingness to keep “rolling up your sleeves” to execute tactical assignments. Eventually, however, the difference between an effective leader and a super-sized individual contributor with a leader’s title is painfully evident.

In the short term you may have the stamina to get up earlier, stay later, and out-work the demands you face. But it will eventually catch up to you, and at that point how you involve others sets the ceiling of your leadership impact.

If you think of yourself as a balloon then the more tasks you have the more the balloon is weighed down, reducing the shadow you cast and limiting your ceiling of influence. As tasks fall off you can float higher, casting a bigger shadow or circle of leadership influence.

As a leader you need to be more essential and less involved. Most leaders confuse the 2 but they’re not the same. Being essential is about what you contribute to the business overall. Being involved is about how many pies your fingers are in. If you have your fingers in too many pies you are not an effective leader.

When we decide what jobs we are absolutely essential to then we reveal those that we aren’t essential to and therefore could delegate. So, have a think about all the aspects of your job. You might want to do 2 columns, Essential & Involved but think very carefully about whether your involvement is actually essential before you write anything in that column. Could it happen/progress if you were on holiday, off sick? If it could then it sounds like you are not essential. You might need to be involved, but you are not essential. Also, you might think it’s your job to do that thing, but it might be your job to ensure that thing gets done. They are very different things! Pause the video and do it now.

How effective you are depends upon how well you activate those around you. What does this means in terms of their behaviour and in terms of your own. Means you are a sought after option but not a bottle neck, you shape others thoughts and ideas but don’t dictate them, you see your own priorities come to life through them.

To raise the ceiling of your leadership potential you need to extend your presence through the actions of others so that if you have an unexpected week off work your initiatives continue without you being there.

So to delegate means to activate. But so many of us find it difficult to access the potential of our team with delegation, for many reasons that we’re going to explore in the lesson.

By the end of this lesson you will have an understanding of the reason people find it difficult to delegate, you will will feel much more confident about delegating and you will be able to overcome any anxiety you are feeling about delegating.

Why do we find it difficult to delegate sometimes? I’d like you to make a few notes in your workbook about why you personally might find it difficult and also in general what do people find difficult about delegating. Pause the video and do it now.

The idea of delegation conjures a number of common concerns in people, some that we came up with are:

It’s easier to do it yourself - that’s the one I hear most often; but it might also be that You’re having a difficult time transitioning from a specialist role to a more generalist role;

It might also be that everyone knows you’re the expert so they continue coming to you rather than going to the person who they now should be going to; Or that You lack confidence in your team; Or You can’t identify a team member with the skills needed for a particular assignment; You might be your own worst enemy because you like things done your own way and you struggle to relinquish control of the process; Or that You believe your staff will resent the additional work and think you’re just slacking off; Or you might be anxiously watching, aware that you could quickly complete the task another team member is struggling with It might be that you Don’t like to feel you’re dumping stuff on people, you Feel guilty because they have a heavy workload too It might be that we Don’t know how to ask or we’re scared to ask because of their reaction We might even be Scared they might do it too well and gain advantage over us Or that we Feel it’s our responsibility

There are a myriad of reasons people don’t like delegating but it’s important that we get over these hurdles. Why is that? Why do we need to delegate? I’d like you to make a few notes in your workbook about the benefits of delegation.

Okay, so Why do we need to delegate? Well it increases our effectiveness, it allows for the development of others, it acts as encouragement for your team members, it shows interest in the future development of the team, above all, it’s commercially sensible - why would you do the task if someone who is paid less than you can do it. Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, and it helps other people in the team grow and develop to reach their full potential in the organisation.

On the flip side we also need to ask ourselves about the problems that not delegating creates? So let’s think about that for the moment. It’s not just as simple as saying the opposite of those we have just spoken about though for some, of course, that is the case. First and foremost, not delegating means that the business isn’t running efficiently, it means the wrong people are doing the jobs, the other people are not being developed, they are being allowed to stagnate, which means that if they crave challenge, which many people do they will probably be looking for another job where they are going to be challenged, it can cause frustration, boredom, issues can fester, it can also mean that there are bottlenecks within the processes that also cause frustration, not just internally but for the customers too. Not delegating hits your bottom line more than many realise.

People like to be delegated to. It makes them feel trusted, valued, recognised and worthwhile. If you’re shying away from delegating, you’re not just harming yourself, you’re harming the business and you're also damaging the people in your team. As a leader it’s your responsibility to delegate. It’s not just a nice to have, or for those who can’t cope doing it all. It’s a key leadership skill that will benefit the business, you and them in many ways and not just financially. Make sure you are helping your team and the business be the best it can be. Effective delegation is the best way of doing that.

The Practice of Delegation: when to and How to Delegate.

Before we start I’d like you to take a deep breath. And another and another. Now, hopefully you are sitting calmly and a bit more focused. Sometimes we we need to slow down to speed up. People traditionally think delegating takes too long, which is why they just keep doing things themselves. But sometimes slowing down is the best path to your greatest effectiveness.

Delegation is a win-win when done appropriately, however, that does not mean that you can delegate just anything to anyone. Delegating effectively takes a bit of thinking about and shouldn’t be done in the heat of the moment when pressure is most intense as it probably won’t be done well. Badly done delegation creates longer term issues that can damage the business, the brand, you and your team so it’s worth taking the time to do it properly in the first place.

By the end of this lesson you will be have the tools to carry out effective delegation, you will be able to identify tasks that should be delegated and you will feel competent and confident to do just that.

To determine when delegation is most appropriate there are five key questions you need to ask yourself:

Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task? Essentially is this a task that someone else can do, or is it critical that you do it yourself? Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person's skills? Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future? Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, for opportunities to check progress, and for rework if that is necessary. Is this a task that I should delegate? Tasks critical for long-term success (for example, recruiting the right people for your team) genuinely do need your attention.

What I would like you to do now is to think of 5 tasks that are on your to do list. I then want you to apply these 5 questions to each one of them. First though I’m going to just go over some other factors that might come into play, such as: The project's timelines or deadlines. How much time is there available to do the job? Is there time to redo the job if it's not done properly the first time? And what are the consequences of not completing the job on time? You should also have a think about your expectations or goals for the project or task(s), including: How important is it that the results are of the highest possible quality? Is an "adequate" result good enough?Would a failure be crucial? And How much would failure impact other things?

It’s vital that you have a think about these factors as well as the five questions because the success of the delegation process depends upon them. If you are delegating a job that’s critically important to the success of the business this year, have you got the amount of time available that it would require to hand that over properly, to check in regularly but not snoopervise or micro-manage. If you make a mess of the delegation process because you’re too anxious about the result then it’s doomed to fail from the start. Delegation needs the time to do it properly, which is what we started this session by slowing down. Remember we need to slow down to speed up. So take your 5 tasks from your to do list and apply the 5 questions to each one of them. Remember those questions are:

Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task? Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person's skills? Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future? Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Is this a task that I should delegate?

Okay so the next question we need to ask ourselves is To Whom Should I Delegate this task?

The factors to consider here include:

And then:

Remember; When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.

So, next to your 5 tasks from earlier I want you to write a name, or a couple of names of people on your team to whom those tasks could perhaps be delegated to.

Now, we’re coming to the really important part. How can we ensure a positive reaction to delegation?

We need to have thought through our questions above because now we need to Give the person the Reasons they have been chosen for the task. We also need to Specify the outcome we desire to the people you trust to deliver it - make sure they are measurable success factors, so that know what they’re aiming for and how it will be measured Give them context as to how this task fits into everything else and why it’s important it’s done a certain way, or where they can be flexible in how it gets done. You then need to Gain Commitment from them, the explanations regarding why them and where the task fits in should already have done this really, so then you need to Establish the controls - how and when will you be checking in together, in terms of time or progress perhaps. If there are limits to the work it’s important to Identify them and make them very clear so there’s no waste of effort. We also need to stay in touch, at least at first, until it’s absolutely established that they know exactly what they’re doing and have taken over full responsibility.

So, to recap we need to:

It sounds like a huge process but in reality this doesn’t take that long. For example it might go something like this:

Rachel, I wonder if I can have a quick word. I have been thinking about how we can eden your skillset so that you can showcase your talents better across the business. I have been asked to coordinate project X and I thought it might be great if we worked on it together. I know you’re ambitious and looking for a promotion soon so this could really help, plus you’re way better than me on Excel and it would be great to have you working with me. I’ve been through what needs to be done and I think this is what you could do and this is what I can do. That way we both have our clear areas of responsibility and the only overlap occurs here at this point. When we get there we can perhaps work on it together, or if you feel confident enough you can go ahead and do it and get all the kudos. This project is really important as we move to expand the software division and I know those higher up will be delighted if we can get it up and running sooner rather than later. It’s an exciting time. What do you think? Are you in?

Once you gain that commitment from her, by making it sound an exciting challenge instead of a mundane task, you make it clear that you’re going to be there beside her and that it’s for her benefit too, then you can specify the desired outcomes clearly, and establish how you will both monitor each other’s progress.

Now this is obviously a larger project but you can modify that little speech for smaller tasks too. What’s a great way to start off any delegation provers is to do what’s called Implementation Intention. This is a technique whereby you get the person to think and then talk through how they would do something, in steps. This flags up any issues that they might have ahead of time and research shows that it increases success rate hugely.

It’s really important that at first, in the delegation process you retain engagement in the carrying out of the task. Don’t just delegate and disappear. People want guidance, and nudges, and praise when they have done something well. If you delegate and disappear this is when people feel dumped on.

You also need to Make sure you provide sufficient ongoing support but that you resist upward delegation which is where it ends up back with you doing the job because they’re having a bit of a struggle. Think what you would do as a parent if your young child were struggling, you wouldn’t just take the task back, you would encourage and assist a slight bit so that they get on their way again. Don’t remove the task from them just because they struggle, that’s the way people learn.

Keeping up to date with their progress is not only supportive, it also makes sure they’re accountable - you can say something like, when you’re 80% done come back to me and have a check in, without sounding overbearing. That’s supportive. Jeb Blount says “In God we trust, everyone else we follow up on.”

I know it can be a difficult and frustrating time when you are used to being able to complete the job quickly and then you have to stand by while they struggle but it helps if you can focus on what they’re doing well and encouraging too get to grips with the rest. No one works well under scrutiny if they’re expecting to be criticised or they know they’re frustrating the observer. Be kind and patient and their skills will follow.

Give recognition and encouragement throughout and when completed. Delegate don’t abdicate.

The next stage that people often don’t bother with or don’t leave enough time for is the review stage.

When delegated work is delivered back to you, make sure you set aside enough time to review it thoroughly. If possible, only accept good quality, fully-complete work. If you accept work you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Worse than this, you accept a whole new tranche of work that you will probably need to complete yourself. Not only does this overload you, it means that you don't have the time to do your own job properly.

Of course, when good work is returned to you, make sure to both recognise and reward the effort. As a leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building team member's self-confidence and efficiency, both of which will be improved on the next delegated task; so, you both win.

In summary there are 3 principle aspects of delegation once you yourself have gone through all the things I have just mentioned.

Teach - do the task while they shadow you, explain and reveal all thought processes throughout so they understand why you do what you do in the order you do it. When I was tutoring at Oxford I used to mark my student essays with them in the room. This isn’t lazy, it’s a great teaching technique. By speaking your thoughts allowed the student got to hear how my thought process worked and they are able, after a few weeks, to essentially mark their own essays. Not completely of course, but they could read through and know that I would question this part, so they needed to put a bit more evidence in, or that I might ask what the other interpretation of this could be, so they would put that in too. It made them more objectively critical about their own work, which is always always a great skill to have. As long as you make sure you aren’t only picking up on what they haven’t done but also saying, yes this is good, this is clear, I wouldn’t have thought to do it like this, this really works etc etc, so that they are getting lots of praise. When they are praised lots they are more likely to be willing to have a go at anything else you would care to delegate. So that’s teaching, the next aspect is to

Reflect - so make sure you ask questions to reveal their understanding of the task and of the reasoning behind the methods or your thinking. E.g. why did I do that? What’s the importance of doing it like this? If I asked you to do this today what’s the first thing you would do? Then finally what you need to do is

Support them- give the level of support that’s required individually, not what you think they should need.

So they are the three aspects to delegation: teach, reflect, support.

Some things we can do to make delegation even easier are to:

So let’s now Decide on 3 delegation goals Pause the video and come up with them now. Be specific, not just delegate more. Identify tasks to delegate, identify the team members to whom you will delegate, and set aside time perhaps. All of these are great goals to have.

Next I want you to think about What you can do in the next week that will support your Delegation goals?

And now What can I do in the next 2 weeks that will support my Delegation goals?

At first sight, delegation can feel like more hassle than it's worth, however by delegating effectively, you can hugely expand the amount of work that you can deliver.

When you arrange the workload so that you are working on the tasks that have the highest priority for you, and other people are working on meaningful and challenging assignments, you have a recipe for success.

To delegate effectively, choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right people to delegate to, and delegate in the right way. There's a lot to this, but you'll achieve so much more once you're delegating effectively!

Happy delegating!

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