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How to Delegate Effectively to Increase Productivity

A key component to greater productivity is effective delegation. Many business owners and leaders try to do it ALL, but this negatively impacts team and organization growth. Doing it all is a side effect of the awesome work ethic that has enabled them to get to where they are. But the reality is you can dedicate more time to high value activities, if you delegate some of your tasks. Delegation is also a powerful employee development strategy, and it supports proactive contingency planning. So before you dive into your task list, consider what could be better accomplished through delegation.

The Psychology of Asking for Help

Researchers have studied why it is hard for so many of us to ask for help. Common reasons include perfectionism and a false belief that asking for help shows weakness. Understanding these tendencies can help you increase your delegation.

Perfectionism plays out through the belief that if we just do it ourself, the output will be superior. Some call this the “self-enhancement bias.” But the reality is, if you put thought behind who you choose for the task, and if you give them adequate instruction (more on this below) you can produce the results you seek. And, even if the result is not 100% the same as you would have produced, the quality could suffice and you’ll have freed up your time for more impactful activities.

Related to perfectionism, the belief that asking for help shows personal weakness is a false narrative. It is smart management to bring in reinforcement when our plate is overflowing, or when our focus is better spent on more high value activities. And, calling on someone to work a task they are good at is a strategic move. None of us are experts in every area. Capitalizing on a coworker or subordinate’s strength is a win-win. As we’ll discuss next, delegation supports employee development and bolsters operational efficiencies.

The Bonus Benefits of Delegating

When you receive the help you have requested, you are able to allocate your time to other tasks. You are accomplishing two (or more) things at once because someone is working on your behalf. Delegation not only improves your personal productivity, but it also has other impactful benefits!

  • When you have a coworker or subordinate take on a new task, that individual gains valuable experience. They are gaining a new skill for their own occupational toolbox. Employee development is a valuable employee retention tool. No matter the level within the organization, the vast majority of people seek professional improvement. Most also seek new challenges and this helps keep them engaged and committed to the organization.
  • Delegating tasks beyond an employee’s day-to-day responsibilities also serves as an important safeguard to operational disruptions. In essence, this type of delegation functions as cross-training. If someone exits the company or must go out on extended leave, you have a competent back-up in place to step in.
  • Routinely delegating tasks better prepares your organization for personal time off. Vacation is critical for each and every one of us. Taking time away from the office boosts productivity. With delegation, your team members become familiar with diverse roles and are ready to step in when another is out on vacation. Employees feel comfortable taking their vacation time knowing they won’t return to an insurmountable amount. The same holds true for you – you can take your time off knowing things will be handled by capable team members.

Delegation is as Important as Ever As We Work From Home

Delegation in the home can be just as rewarding as it is in your professional endeavors. So many of us continue to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re juggling work and home responsibilities. Many summer camps and other kid-centric activities are not an option this year. Everyone is at home, which means more meals, more dishes, more messes and more at-home activity. When the trash needs to be taken out or the floors need to be vacuumed, it may seem easier to just do it yourself. However, getting the kids to pitch in will not only help you out, but it also teaches important lessons like responsibility and teamwork. Take advantage of opportunities to delegate housekeeping to your children! It will free up more of your time and foster some solid character traits in your children.

The Art of Delegating

There is no one-size-fits-all for delegating. Each of us has a unique set of responsibilities and a diverse network of professional team members. But, there are some solid guidelines we can use when conducting efficient delegation.

  1. Create a time bucket calendar. I’ve heard it called a time portfolio, and with my clients we use a time map. Analyze your responsibilities and categorize by importance. Plug in where you expect to do what throughout a given week. What is driving directly to your goals? Is there a task or project you can delete or delay with little impact to your goals? Many are surprised to learn that there are tasks that carry little impact or actions that can be modified and still deliver the same impact, i.e. a weekly email summary instead of a standing status meeting.
  2. Consider what falls out of your “top importance” category or outside of your top skills. These will land on your possible delegation list.
  3. Next, consider areas and tasks within your organization where employee cross-training will bring the biggest benefit. These, too, will land on your possible delegation list.
  4. Analyze the list of tasks and projects you have accumulated for possible delegation, and determine which individual(s) are best suited for the task. Consider skillsets, current bandwidth and professional development potential.
  5. Provide the person you are delegating to all the information they will need to complete the task. Clear instruction and expectations are key. Provide a timeline and/or deadline. Give the assignee the green light to ask for help if needed.
  6. Lastly, after the fact, take the time to gather feedback. Maybe the individual brings new ideas to the table you can capitalize on. Did they identify greater efficiencies you can incorporate into the process? Did you uncover a new skillset you can tap into going forward? Can you hand the task off permanently or was this a one-time delegation?

Make Delegation a Priority

I encourage you to use delegation to improve your productivity. Foster self-awareness to stop yourself when perfectionism or self-doubt causes an obstacle to handing off a task. Give coworkers the opportunity to show you their full potential. Make it a priority this week to practice strategic delegation and watch the benefits unfold.

SPICA has put together an extensive list of Team Management Skills for successful leaders.

Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop.  She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.

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