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Explaining the Art of Delegating

“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” – John C. Maxwell, American author.

We can explain delegation as the process of the workload and responsibilities being divided up between people. Yes, leaders are tasked with things that only they can do because they are the ones with the experience and skills to complete the given task. However, the reason why leaders are given a team to manage, is because they get quite a few tasks that don’t necessarily demand their expertise or that justify their time. Hence, their team is there to help them fulfil the obligations and achieve the organisation’s goals. 

Why is Delegating so Important?

The art of delegating is a vital skill that can be developed and that is evident in a good leader. Proper delegation helps:

  • increase productivity, 
  • it communicates a clear job responsibility, 
  • it helps the leader manage time, 
  • it empowers your team and assist with developing other, much needed skills, of individual team members, 
  • it motivates members to perform better as well as 
  • prepares you as the leader to be able to manage larger teams in the future.

The problem comes in when the leader does not trust their team members enough to fulfil the given task or they micromanage each team member because they believe they can do the job better.  

How to Delegate?

A former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, explains delegation well when she said: “The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.” So, your team needs to know what you want from them and where they stand with you from the start and what is expected of them, and then you can guide them with ease and hold them accountable. 

  1. Communicate expectations clearly and set milestones.
  2. Be assertive and let them know what the consequences will be if they fail to complete their delegated task.
  3. Keep an eye on their progress but don’t interfere too much and give regular feedback.
  4. Give them space to develop their own process. You want the result, how they get there is up to them. 
  5. Align and guide them to stay on the right track in achieving the objective if need be.
  6. Be open to questions, listen to their concerns, and assist with solutions.
  7. Evaluate and hold them accountable.

Delegating is an art and knowing how to properly delegate tasks will determine the required outcome. Yet, quite a few leaders struggle with delegating, can’t let go of responsibility or authority and don’t trust their team members to do their work. Letting go and trusting is not easy. The 34th US President, Dwight Eisenhower, said: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Delegating is a very important skill for a good leader to have and the good news is it is a skill that can be learned and developed. 

Although we offer skills training courses specifically customized for Leadership Development there is also a training course on Delegation Skills which looks at how systematic delegation will improve organizational efficiency and productivity. When used properly, delegation is an effective way of managing personal time and developing staff. Delegation should be done at the correct time, include challenging tasks, and the responsibility and authority for achieving those tasks.