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Delegate Effectively

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I was chatting with a company director recently, he pointed out that many of his colleagues have no idea how to delegate to their assistants or other executives. When I had my own assistant, I was rather at a loss initially as I had never been advised of the best ways to delegate. I’m glad to say my director helped me. So why don’t people do it?

What stops people from delegating?

Lack of trust. How will we ever trust somebody if we don’t give them a chance to prove themselves? We need to let go; it’s not easy, but eventually the trust will happen, if not, address that issue. We must realise that people will make mistakes; it’s making the same mistake more than once and not learning that is the real problem.

Lack to time to explain. Remember that you only have to explain once, maybe twice, and then you will gain your time back. Invest the time initially to save much more time in the future.

You think you can do it better. Maybe you can do it better, or it seems easier to just do it yourself, but the person you delegate to can only get better with practice.

You think the other person may do it better. And what’s wrong with that? It shows you’ve trained them well!

Nobody to delegate to… This may seem true at first, but what about outside companies, or using a VA? Could you ask colleagues for ad hoc assistance?

Why is it important to delegate?

Delegating is imperative, but seldom done enough. When you look at the short-term and long-term benefits though, the path forward is clear.

  • It increases the amount of time you have available for higher level tasks; the more you can pass on to someone else, the more you can develop your role.

One of the problems with the influx of technology is that managers are organising their own meetings and travel, or reading and dealing with all their emails. They are basically embezzling their organisations. They are paid high salaries for their specialised skills and should not spend time doing tasks that their assistant is paid to do… and probably does better.

I remember when someone asked my director if they could find time for a meeting, he replied “Ask Heather; she deals with that.” Absolutely correct; he was not paid to organize his diary.

  • It motivates and trains your staff. I have worked with Assistants whose Managers are control freaks and don’t pass on work. The Assistants then feel mistrusted and become bored. They also can’t develop their role if they are not given the opportunities.

The Manager will also not achieve as much success because of spending time doing tasks s/he is not paid to do.

  • It decreases everyone’s stress levels because the Manager is not worrying about things s/he shouldn’t be concerned with and the Assistant is busy and motivated.

After hearing all this, surely you're convinced to give it a go. If you're new to delegating, review our top 10 tips:

  1. Don’t apologise for delegating, unless it is a really onerous task. Apologising makes you appear very passive and you will lose respect.
  2. Do say “please” and “thank you”.
  3. Choose the best person for the task, not necessarily the most willing; if you have a choice.
  4. Make sure the person knows the deadline and, if needed, give them an early deadline for safety. Give them enough notice, where possible. Remember: some managers are more creative under pressure and often want to change things at the last minute. Learn to anticipate this.
  5. Outline the objective of the task rather than the method; people have different working styles and may be more efficient working in a different way from you.
  6. Think about relevant training; you can’t expect people to work effectively if they don’t really know what they’re doing.
  7. Encourage questions and give constructive feedback. If a mistake is made, explain what has gone wrong and what the impact of that may be. Ask them how they suggest resolving the issue. By giving them some say, the delegee will take more responsibility for their contribution.
  8. Provide support, but don’t “hover”. Let them ask you for help or, subtly, keep an eye on how they are doing and offer support.
  9. Be assertive; tell them what you want in an honest, direct and non-aggressive manner. Consider your needs and theirs as well. 
  10. It may be more appropriate to delegate authority rather than individual tasks; this will enable a person to organise their own workload and it is more motivating. It also is less time consuming for the delegator.

American Society of Administrative Professionals

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