Knowing how to delegate is pivotal to being an efficient and effective creative leader. But it's a skill that requires careful thought and a deft touch.
As a manager, the buck stops with you. If a new marketing program flops or a website redesign bombs, you're ultimately the one who'll deal with the repercussions, whether it's lost revenue or angry clients.
Given the weight of their responsibilities, some creative leaders avoid delegating in favor of keeping a controlling hand and extra-close eye on projects big and small. But getting mired in minutiae comes with a cost. Continually allowing yourself to get bogged down by nonessential tasks and routine projects prevents you from focusing on broader, bigger-picture business goals.
Here are tips on how to delegate that will enable you to boost your productivity, avoid burnout and empower your staff while maintaining the integrity of your team's work:
First and foremost, understand what "delegating" is and isn't. Delegating is a smart time management strategy that requires thoughtful consideration; it's not constantly dumping undesirable work on the nearest direct report.
To determine which assignments should be delegated and to whom, create a list of the tasks you typically tackle and break them down into three categories:
- Tasks only you can address as a supervisor
- Tasks a particular employee can likely handle
- Tasks anyone on your team should be able to do
After identifying projects that can be delegated, think about the time, abilities and resources needed for success. Which person is most capable of fulfilling the requirements of each project? Some assignments call for an innovative, outside-the-box thinker, while other tasks require the ability to negotiate or work under pressure. Assess individual strengths and weaknesses and assign accordingly. If you're unsure of who's best for a given project, ask your team for input. You'll likely find volunteers and receive creative suggestions for streamlining the work.
Spread the delegated duties to multiple people – not just the go-to superstar who always comes through in a pinch. You obviously want to select the most qualified person to assume each duty, but you want all of your employees to stretch their skills. Plus, you can't afford to overburden a top performer who's already tackling a heavy workload.
Offer Crystal Clear Directions
Once you've identified the right employees to take on new tasks, clearly define your expectations. Covering the details upfront will save you significant time answering questions (or making corrections) later. Everyone you delegate to should have a solid understanding of what needs to be done and how the work will be evaluated. In addition, let people know the priority level of their respective tasks, and explain if, when and how you'd like to receive status updates.
Minimize the Micromanagement
For those with control issues or perfectionistic tendencies, the most difficult aspect of delegation is overcoming the impulse to micromanage. It's understandable that initially you might feel uncomfortable loosening the reins. However, for delegation to truly work, you have to step back and let go. Simply put, you must delegate authority along with responsibility.
Allow employees to put their own stamp on projects by giving them the freedom to make decisions – and mistakes. The definition of delegate is to "entrust a task or responsibility to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself." The operative word is entrust. By demonstrating trust, you'll help your staff fine-tune their problem-solving, project-management and decision-making skills.
Get Comfortable With Risk
It's true that when you delegate there is the possibility that an employee won't do an assignment the way you want. But unless you're willing to take the risk, you'll never maximize productivity.
Remember that while you're the boss now, you weren't always in a position of power. When you were working your way up the ranks you likely looked for challenging opportunities to grow professionally, right? Give your staff that same chance.
The bottom line is that learning how to delegate effectively is a win-win proposition: It allows your employees to expand their skills, while freeing you up to attend to more impactful, big-picture projects that will increase the value proposition of your firm or department.