How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) (2022)

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One of my favorite Olympic sports to watch is track relay. The runners make blindly reaching for a baton at 20 mph while staying in their lanes look incredibly easy. But in truth, what they’re doing is extremely difficult. And it’s a lot like delegating effectively.

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) (1)

Delegating sounds easy—and others who can do it well make it look easy—but passing the baton effectively requires a lot of trust, communication, and coordination. Still, if you learn how to delegate—and you do it well—everyone on your team wins.

Table of Contents:

  • Why Is It Important to Delegate?
  • Why Managers Fail to Delegate
  • How to Determine When Delegating is Appropriate
  • How to Delegate Tasks Effectively

Why Is It Important to Delegate?

As a leader, delegating is important because you can’t—and shouldn’t—do everything yourself. Delegating empowers your team, builds trust, and assists with professional development. And for leaders, it helps you learn how to identify who is best suited to tackle tasks or projects.

Of course, delegating tasks can lighten your workload, but according to Dr. Scott Williams, professor of management at Wright State University, delegating does much more than just get stuff off your plate.

For one, the people who work for you will be able to develop new skills and gain knowledge, which prepares them for more responsibility in the future.

“Delegation can also be a clear sign that you respect your subordinates’ abilities and that you trust their discretion,” Williams writes. “Employees who feel that they are trusted and respected tend to have a higher level of commitment to their work, their organization, and, especially, their managers.”

Why Managers Fail to Delegate

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) (2)

While the benefits of delegating are obvious and plentiful, many managers still fail to delegate effectively. The reality is that there are several myths and misconceptions about delegating that can make some leaders wary of handing off work to others.

They think delegating is just passing off work to someone else

“Managers often mistake delegation for passing off work,” writes Harvey Mackay, founder of MackayMitchell Envelope Co. “So they don’t do it, and they wind up wasting their time as well as the company’s time and resources.”

(Video) How To Delegate Tasks Like a Pro: Team Task Management Tips

Delegation can be a chance to make workloads more manageable, but more than that, it can provide really valuable teaching opportunities for your employees, Mackay notes.

Delegation is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of a strong leader.

They think they can do it better

One study found that two psychological processes make people more reluctant to delegate work:

  • the self-enhancement effect, which is a manager’s tendency to evaluate a work product more highly the more involved he/she is in its production
  • the faith in supervision effect, which is when people have a tendency to think work performed under the control of a supervisor is better than work performed without as much supervision

Watch for those biases in your work. They could be a sign that you need to focus on building more trust within your team.

They’re nervous about letting go

Letting go can be challenging, but accepting that you can’t do everything yourself is important.

“Giving up being ‘the go-to expert’ takes tremendous confidence and perspective even in the healthiest environments,” says Carol Walker, president of Prepared to Lead—a consulting firm that focuses on developing young leaders.

Remind yourself that your team wants to do good work and be successful just like you do. If your employees succeed, you succeed.

“I’ve learned that people will seldom let you down if they understand that your destiny is in their hands—and vice versa,” says Mackay.

They’re worried delegating will take longer than just doing the work

Another common barrier to delegation is that it can take longer to teach someone else how to do a task than to just do it yourself.

And while that might be true the first time you delegate the task, over time, the amount of time you have to dedicate to that task decreases because you won’t have to be involved with it at all.

Imagine that it will take you eight hours to walk someone through a task you have to complete every week. Typically, it takes you an hour to complete the task.

Once eight weeks have passed after you’ve trained someone else to do the task for you, you’ll have recouped the time you spent on training and now have an extra hour each week.

With that extra hour, you can focus on more important work, such as strategy, coaching, or development—the things leaders are supposed to do.

How to Determine When Delegating is Appropriate

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) (3)

(Video) How to Delegate Tasks Effectively

Another common barrier to delegation is that leaders aren’t sure which tasks they should and shouldn’t be delegating. In every manager’s workload—particularly new managers—there are likely tasks that you should do and tasks that you should delegate.

Career and business strategist Jenny Blake recommends conducting an audit of your tasks using the rules below to find out which of your tasks should be delegated:

  • Tiny: Tiny tasks are little things that only take a small amount of time to complete but add up over time. These might be things an assistant could do: scheduling meetings, booking flights for business trips, or deleting spam/marketing emails from your inbox.
  • Tedious: Tedious tasks are mindless tasks, such as copying and pasting lead information from your marketing automation tool to your CRM. Tedious tasks require little skill and can be easily delegated.
  • Time-consuming: Time-consuming tasks are opportunities to break work into smaller chunks and delegate portions of the work to others. If you perform a task regularly that takes a lot of time, look for opportunities to hand off segments of that task to others.
  • Teachable: Do you have tasks on your plate that you could easily teach someone else to complete? If a task is entirely teachable—if it does not require expertise that only you can provide—it’s a worthwhile candidate for delegation.
  • Terrible at: Maybe you have no design skills, so it takes you six times as long to create graphics for your blog posts as it would a professional designer. It’s better to delegate that task to someone who’s more equipped to do the work quickly and well.
  • Time-sensitive: Maybe it would be better if you handled all of the tasks belonging to a time-sensitive project, but if you won’t have time to complete it doing it all on your own, it’s time to find ways to delegate parts of that task to other members of your team.

Additionally, you may need to consider delegating tasks you love doing but are no longer part of your job.

If you recently moved into a leadership role, you may have pet projects from your days as an individual contributor, but if it’s now someone else’s job to complete those tasks, it’s time to delegate and teach that person how to do it for you.

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) (4)

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How to Delegate Tasks Effectively

Here are a few tips to help you delegate effectively so that your team shares the workload and makes progress that benefits everyone.

1. Choose the right person for the job

Part of being a good leader is understanding your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. If you need to delegate a task that is going to require a lot of collaboration to complete, don’t delegate it to someone who very strongly prefers working alone. Delegate it to someone who prefers collaborating.

If you conducted the audit recommended in the section above, you may have a list of tasks you’re looking to delegate. You may want to consider sitting down with your team, going through the list, and letting people self-select the tasks they’re most interested in taking over.

Letting people choose the tasks they’re delegated is another way to build trust with and inspire engagement among your team.

(Video) How to Delegate

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) (6)

2. Explain why you’re delegating

If you’re delegating a task to someone out of the blue, it really helps when you provide context for why you’re giving them that responsibility.

“When you select people to delegate to, tell them why you chose them specifically and how you hope to see this help them grow,” says Alex Cavoulacos, founder of The Muse. “Help them see each delegated task as an opportunity to take on more responsibilities or grow new skills.”

3. Provide the right instructions

Every good delegator provides basic and important information without micromanaging. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests that you delegate results rather than methods:

“For example, say, ‘Here’s what we are doing. Here’s what we’re after. I want you to get the sale,’ instead of ‘Follow up on those leads,” Covey says.

Tell employees your goals or the milestones you hope to hit and let them tackle the problem in their own way. Don’t look for perfection or micromanage; someone else might complete a task differently than you would. As long as you get the result you’re looking for, that’s okay.

4. Provide resources and training

You have to make sure the person tasked with a job or project has the tools and resources they need to be successful.

“A good training rule of thumb is ‘I do, we do, you do’ (i.e. watch me do this, then let’s do it together, now you try),” says Cavoulacos.

Make sure that when you delegate a task, the person has the tools and skills they need to complete the task—or provide a way for them to work on those skills.

For example, if you ask someone to use a specific tool they’ve never used before to complete a task, make sure there’s a plan for them to become familiar with the tool first.

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important) (7)

5. Delegate responsibility *and* authority

You’ve probably been in a situation where you were tasked with something but didn’t feel fully empowered to make decisions. As a result, the work stalls, you end up having to ask for help, and the task takes more time from both the employee and the manager.

“Managers who fail to delegate responsibility in addition to specific tasks eventually find themselves reporting to their subordinates and doing some of the work, rather than vice versa,” writes Martin Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals.

Foster an environment and culture where people feel they’re able to make decisions, ask questions, and take the necessary steps to complete the work.

6. Check the work and provide feedback

There’s nothing worse than a manager who delegates something to an employee and then blames the employee when something goes wrong. Don’t be that manager.

Check the work you delegated to your employees when it’s complete, make sure they did it correctly, and give them any feedback needed to improve when handling the task going forward.

(Video) Delegate Effectively (DELEGATION TIPS FOR SUCCESS)

7. Say thank you

When someone completes a task or project you delegated, show genuine appreciation and point out specific things they did right or well.

When you make a note of those specifics, you’re giving people a roadmap for what they should continue to do to be successful.

“This is the simplest step but one of the hardest for many people to learn,” Zwilling says. “It will inspire loyalty, provide real satisfaction for work done, and become the basis for mentoring and performance reviews.”

The Benefits of Learning to Delegate

If you delegate well, you can increase trust and commitment with your employees, improve productivity, and make sure the right people are performing the tasks that best suit them.

So don’t be afraid to pass the baton. It might take some practice to become a great delegator, but if you work at it, you’ll all go further.

Originally published in March 2017, this post has been updated to provide more information about how to determine which tasks should be delegated and to add a few more delegating tips.

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FAQs

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important)? ›

9 Delegation Tips for Managers
  • Know What to Delegate. Not every task can be delegated. ...
  • Play to Your Employees' Strengths and Goals. ...
  • Define the Desired Outcome. ...
  • Provide the Right Resources and Level of Authority. ...
  • Establish a Clear Communication Channel. ...
  • Allow for Failure. ...
  • Be Patient. ...
  • Deliver (and Ask For) Feedback.
Jan 14, 2020

How do you delegate tasks effectively? ›

Why is it important to delegate tasks and responsibilities? ›

Delegating effectively saves time, helps you as a leader and your team develop as professionals, prepares you to manage larger teams, and inspires employees and team members to perform better. Delegation is an important management skill to work on through your career.

Could you explain what is work delegation and how would you ensure tasks are completed? ›

In project management, successful delegation does not mean that you let go of every aspect of the project and start depending on the team members. Instead, it means that you empower your team and build their confidence by making them responsible for a small part of the project.

How do you delegate tasks interview question? ›

Relevant experiences and skills are very important to bring up when you are answering this question.
  • Talk about how in past jobs you have assigned roles based on the strengths of the worker.
  • Mention your ability to give clear instructions.
  • Discuss how you encourage employees to perform at their best.
May 30, 2017

What is delegation and why is it important? ›

Delegation of authority helps develop the capacity of others and makes them feel valuable to the organization. It also encourages job satisfaction through a sense of shared responsibility and breaks the monotony of a subordinate's usual tasks and routine.

What is an example of delegating? ›

Some examples of delegation in the workplace with varying levels of trust and autonomy include: Giving directions to a subordinate and telling them exactly what to do. Assigning someone to compile research, gather feedback, and report back to you so you can make informed decisions.

What are delegation skills? ›

Managers need to be able to communicate clearly with their employees when delegating. They have to explain why an employee has been assigned a task, what the task is, and what the expectations are. All of this requires clear, effective oral and written communication skills.

How you assign tasks to your team? ›

Here are some things to keep in mind when assigning tasks to your employees:
  1. Delegate positively. ...
  2. Ask yourself what you want accomplished. ...
  3. Choose the right person. ...
  4. Get input. ...
  5. Set a deadline. ...
  6. Give training and supervision. ...
  7. Assign authorities. ...
  8. Consider the different aspects of control.

What are the positive effects of delegating tasks? ›

Delegation of tasks to others offers the following benefits:
  • Gives you the time and ability to focus on higher-level tasks.
  • Gives others the ability to learn and develop new skills.
  • Develops trust between workers and improves communication.
  • Improves efficiency, productivity, and time management.
Nov 9, 2018

What are the 3 elements of delegation? ›

Every time you delegate work to a teammate, three inescapable core elements of delegation are in play. Authority, responsibility, and accountability form an integrated process and must be applied by you as a unified whole.

How do you delegate tasks to your team Sample answer? ›

How to Delegate Tasks Effectively
  • Choose the right person for the job. ...
  • Explain why you're delegating. ...
  • Provide the right instructions. ...
  • Provide resources and training. ...
  • Delegate responsibility *and* authority. ...
  • Check the work and provide feedback. ...
  • Say thank you.
May 19, 2020

What is the first step while delegating a task? ›

10 Steps for Effective Delegation
  • Step 1 – Identify the task. ...
  • Step 2 – Choose who to delegate the task to. ...
  • Step 3 – Confirm level of interest. ...
  • Step 4 – Clearly define the task. ...
  • Step 5 – Clarify level of responsibility, authority, and accountability. ...
  • Step 6 – Establish timeframes and completion date.
Nov 18, 2016

Is delegation effective in a workplace? ›

Enhancing your employees' skills and improving their performance is a great way to improve workplace efficiency and achieve team goals. By delegating responsibilities, you provide others with opportunities for development and growth as well as helping to increase their level of self-confidence in their abilities.

What is the most important principle of delegation? ›

  • Principles of Effective Delegation. ...
  • 1] Defining the Function. ...
  • 2] Defining the Results. ...
  • 3] Balance of Authority with Responsibility. ...
  • 4] Absoluteness of Responsibility. ...
  • 5] Unity of Command. ...
  • 6] Defining the Limits of Authority. ...
  • 7] Authority level principle.

What does effective delegation look like? ›

Successful delegators know when to cheerlead, coach, step in, step back, adjust expectations, make themselves available, and celebrate successes. They tolerate risks and mistakes, and use them as learning opportunities, rather than as proof that they shouldn't have delegated in the first place.

What is the simplest form of delegation? ›

The simplest form of delegation involves telling someone what to do in great detail. In this type of delegation, the person assigning the tasks makes all the decisions, and the person completing the task follows their orders.

What is an effective delegation? ›

Delegation is the ability to effectively assign tasks, responsibility and authority to others. it is a win-win when done appropriately, however, that does not mean that you can delegate just anything.

How do you delegate effectively without losing control? ›

Delegate Without Losing Control
  1. Choose what tasks you are willing to delegate. ...
  2. Pick the best person to delegate to. ...
  3. Trust those to whom you delegate. ...
  4. Give clear assignments and instructions. ...
  5. Set a definite task completion date and a follow-up system. ...
  6. Give public and written credit.
Aug 22, 2011

What are the 3 elements of delegation? ›

Every time you delegate work to a teammate, three inescapable core elements of delegation are in play. Authority, responsibility, and accountability form an integrated process and must be applied by you as a unified whole.

What is the most important principle of delegation? ›

  • Principles of Effective Delegation. ...
  • 1] Defining the Function. ...
  • 2] Defining the Results. ...
  • 3] Balance of Authority with Responsibility. ...
  • 4] Absoluteness of Responsibility. ...
  • 5] Unity of Command. ...
  • 6] Defining the Limits of Authority. ...
  • 7] Authority level principle.

What does effective delegation look like? ›

Successful delegators know when to cheerlead, coach, step in, step back, adjust expectations, make themselves available, and celebrate successes. They tolerate risks and mistakes, and use them as learning opportunities, rather than as proof that they shouldn't have delegated in the first place.

What is an example of delegation? ›

When a group of steel workers are assigned to represent all steel workers in union talks, this group is an example of a delegation. When a boss assigns tasks to his employees, this is an example of delegation.

What is the first step while delegating a task? ›

10 Steps for Effective Delegation
  • Step 1 – Identify the task. ...
  • Step 2 – Choose who to delegate the task to. ...
  • Step 3 – Confirm level of interest. ...
  • Step 4 – Clearly define the task. ...
  • Step 5 – Clarify level of responsibility, authority, and accountability. ...
  • Step 6 – Establish timeframes and completion date.
Nov 18, 2016

What are the 4 components of delegation? ›

Elements of Delegation – Sizing up the Work, Assignment of Duties to Subordinates, Granting of Authority to Perform Duty and Creation of Obligation.

What are the 2 types of delegation? ›

Types of Delegation of Authority

General or Specific Delegation. It is based on the job assigned. Formal or Informal Delegation.

Managers need to delegate tasks to be effective. Here are some aspects of effective delegation you should keep in mind.

Delegation is when managers use their authority to assign responsibility to others in their workplace, such as their direct reports or co-workers.. For example, imagine you are a marketing director overseeing an email campaign to a group of customers.. When delegating tasks for this campaign, a good manager must send detailed instructions via email or delegation tool.. Once each member of your team has completed their assigned task, they should send it to you for review.. A management figure is passing a certain level of trust to a subordinate to complete tasks effectively.. Always let your team know when they do a good job and thank them.. It’s your job as an authority figure to teach your employees new skills.

There’s nothing more satisfying than checking off your to-do list. But before that, learn how to prioritize tasks at work. Check out these 9 tips...

But before you attack your task list, you want to learn how to prioritize tasks.. Before you can prioritize your task items, you need to categorize each task in your master list into one of these four categories:. Do the task now Defer the task to a later time Delegate the task to someone else Delete the task from your list. You can do a few tasks on your task list quickly.. Delegate this work to trim down your task list further.. Which tasks are important?. Source: Wikimedia Commons To prioritize work using this framework, put each task into one of the four quadrants:. Relative priority works by weighing the importance of each task compared to other tasks on the priority list.. Tasks with an earlier deadline become priority tasks.. Also, complete tasks that block other work from starting first.. These are your most important tasks.. Once you’ve identified the task, stay focused on getting that one task done.. You’re halfway through your work plan, and suddenly tasks and/or priorities change.

President Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle identifies which tasks and activities you should focus on and which you should delegate or ignore.

Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle helps you think about your priorities, and determine which of your activities are important and which are, essentially, distractions.. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.". In other words, we must spend our time on things that are important and not just the ones that are urgent.. Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else's goals.. When we know which activities are important and which are urgent, we can overcome the natural tendency to focus on unimportant urgent activities, so that we can clear enough time to do what's essential for our success.. There are two distinct types of urgent and important activities: ones that you could not have foreseen, and others that you've left until the last minute.. Here, the best approach is to leave some time in your schedule to handle unexpected issues and unplanned important activities.. If you have a lot of urgent and important activities, identify which of these you could have foreseen, and think about how you could schedule similar activities ahead of time, so that they don't become urgent.. Urgent but not important tasks are things that prevent you from achieving your goals.. When you use this tool to prioritize your time, you can deal with truly urgent issues, at the same time as you work towards important, longer-term goals.. Important and urgent.. Important but not urgent.. Not important but urgent.. Not important and not urgent.. Then schedule tasks and activities based on their importance and urgency.

Videos

1. Management Training: Delegating Effectively
(Anthony Donovan)
2. How to Effectively Delegate Tasks (and Why It's Critical)
(Info Success Hive)
3. How To Delegate Tasks Effectively (Everything You Need To Know!)
(John Whiting - Bulletproof Entrepreneur)
4. Why is DELEGATING Important - 6 reasons
(Be different)
5. The Importance of Delegation in Business | How to Delegate Effectively as a Leader
(Matterhorn Business Development)
6. Five Ways To Delegate Tasks Effectively - Taaka Awori
(Busara Africa Leadership Tips)

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