4 tips to professionally delegate work to your employees

By Robert Half on 26 August 2022

As a manager in Japan, the buck stops with you.

If a project bombs, you are ultimately the one who will deal with the repercussions, whether it is lost revenue or angry clients.

Given the weight of their responsibilities, some leaders avoid delegating in favour 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 non-essential tasks and routine projects prevents you from focusing on broader, bigger-picture business goals.

Follow the tips below on how to delegate work to employees effectively, which will allow you to boost productivity, avoid burnout and empower your staff:

1. Delegate work to employees strategically

First and foremost, understand what “delegating” is and is not.

Learning how to delegate work to employees effectively is a management strategy that requires thoughtful consideration; it is 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:

  1. Tasks only you can address as a supervisor
  2. Tasks a particular employee can likely handle
  3. Tasks anyone on your team should be able to do

After identifying projects that can be assigned, 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 are unsure of who is best for a given project, ask your team for input. You will 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 your employees to stretch their skills. Plus, you cannot afford to overburden a top performer who is already tackling a heavy workload.

2. Offer crystal clear directions

Once you have 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 would like to receive status updates.

3. Minimise the micromanagement

For those with control issues or perfectionistic tendencies, the most difficult aspect of delegation is overcoming the impulse to micromanage.

It is understandable that initially you might feel uncomfortable loosening the reins.

However, for delegation to truly work, you must step back and let go. Simply put, you must delegate authority to employees 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.”

By demonstrating trust, you will help your staff fine-tune their problem-solving, project-management and decision-making skills.

4. Get comfortable with risk

It is true that when you delegate there is the possibility that an employee will not do an assignment the way you want.

But unless you are willing to take the risk, you will never maximise productivity.

Remember that while you are the boss now, you were not always in a position of power.

If you are 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 work to employees 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.

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