Secrets of Effective Delegation

May 18, 2021


The idea of delegating can feel like one enormous headache. Many of us either don’t know how to delegate, or fear delegation may take too much time and effort. However, training someone to take on tasks through effective delegation can free you to concentrate on your most important duties. Effective delegation can be learned, it can help you make better use your time while helping others develop new skills and confidence. Here are some smart and easy ways to delegate.

Define the task to be delegated
Be specific. What do you need? A ten-page report on sales for the last three months? A two-page memo on sales for March? By what date should it be ready? Next Wednesday at noon? Tomorrow, end-of-day? What information must be included? Sales analysis, by day? By week? The person you delegate to can’t be successful if they don’t know what you need.

Choose the right person
Consider people’s current skills and the likelihood of success with the proper coaching. When there’s a tight deadline, it might be better to delegate to someone who is already proficient. When there’s more leeway, it’s best to delegate to a team member who would benefit from learning new skills. And always make sure you have the support above you pass along tasks to these

Check understanding
Even if you believe you’ve been 100 percent clear about the task, timeframe, desired outcome and available resources, the person you delegate to may still feel nervous and unsure of themselves. Have them explain the specifics of the assignment to you to ensure that you’re both on the same page.

Start small
If you feel uncomfortable delegating, start with a small, easy task. Once someone has successfully completed it, give them a slightly larger one, and then an even larger one, until you both feel confident about bigger, more challenging assignments.

Set aside time to answer questions
Let the person you delegate to know that they can ask you any question at all—so that potential snags are ironed out early. Listen to their feedback. Set a schedule for progress updates and adjust parameters as needed. 

Don’t backtrack
If problems arise, resist the urge to just do it yourself. In fact, don’t ever take back the task. Ask your colleague for their recommendations for solving the problem(s) and work through it together.

Expect small growing pains
Remember that the first few times you delegate, the person may take longer than you’d wish to complete a task. That’s perfectly normal. As they become more confident and skilled, their ability to create reports, oversee travel arrangements, organize meetings, and so forth—will speed up. 

Give feedback
Give positive, public feedback for a job well done, and private, specific, constructive feedback to correct issues if necessary. Offering practical advice can be a big assistance here.

Remember  delegation maximizes productivity, enables skill growth within the team, and makes both you and your teammates more satisfied and successful. 

About the Author:

Heidi Souerwine, CMP, is the Content Manager of ASAP and manages content strategy for ASAP and its portfolio of products, including the APC, EA Summit, EA Ignite, and PACE. Prior to moving to Maine and joining the ASAP team in 2017, she spent 15 years in Washington, DC managing training and events from 10 – 10,000 attendees for international membership associations, non-profits, and the federal government. Heidi is passionate about needs-based program development, purposeful event design, and cultivating active community and engagement.

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