Do you remember being in high school and when your teacher assigned the dreaded group project? For me, one specific group project comes to my mind from a history class. Our assignment was to create a video depicting a historical event. We needed costumes, a script that included each team member, and we were to do a good enough job so that the rest of the class could pass a quiz on the information we presented. Simple enough, right?
Here was the issue: whenever a group project was assigned, I walked into the project assuming I would “lead” it, that no one else would pull their weight and I would end up doing all the work myself. It’s hard to lead a group when you have no faith in the people around you.
Our project went fine. At the end of the week, it was done and that was all I cared about. In retrospect, I realize that I did a disservice to everyone in my group by taking on the whole project and only asking them to participate on the items necessary to get a good grade. I learned that when I assume the people around me will fail, I am setting them up to do just that. The same is true in business. As I have grown as a manager, I have found that if I don’t give the people on my team the ability to take on new tasks and grow, I’m setting them up to fail.
Delegating tasks allows you and your team to understand the strengths and abilities each person brings to the job, and allows you to free up your time so you can focus on the jobs that only you can do. So, when you are in the midst of the battle, how do you actually delegate a task?
1. Slow down and communicate.
It is vital that the very first thing you do is slow down and make sure to clearly communicate the goal. What are you trying to accomplish and why? In addition, each person needs to clearly understand what you expect of them, what their timeline is for completion, and the level of quality that you expect. When you are in the middle of delegating a project, it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t a one-time conversation. The person you are delegating to is probably equally as nervous to take on this job as you are to relinquish your control over it. So, communicate, communicate, communicate.
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2. Don’t micro-manage.
If you have done a good job of slowing the process down and making sure that you are communicating consistently, there is no need to micro-manage. Micro-management only tells the other people on your team that you can’t trust them. You should meet regularly to make sure things are going well. If this is a new task, this may mean meeting with them daily until they get the hang of it, then moving to weekly or biweekly just to check in. There is a learning period that will always occur, but it is your job as the leader to make sure they have the information they need to succeed, without the oversight of their every single move.
3. Provide the resources and authority needed to complete the task.
It is extremely frustrating to be given a job or a project to complete without the resources and the authority needed to do the task well. If you wanted to learn how to swim, you would need a few things to actually complete the task. You would need access to someone who knows how to swim and can teach swimming, you would need access to water, and you would need time to practice until you had learned to swim. If you only had two of the three, how effective would you be at achieving the goal of swimming? You wouldn’t be effective at all. It’s important to provide the necessary resources and authority a person needs in order to complete the delegated task or project. If you don’t, you are simply setting both them and yourself up for failure.
As you delegate a job to someone, it is important to keep in mind that the person will probably not do the task exactly the way you would, and, for the most part, that’s okay. If someone can do a job to 80% of the standard of how you would do it, it has to be good enough. Allow your team the opportunity to grow and expand their skill set. When you do, you will be creating a strong team, a team that you can believe in and know will each do their part to help your organization or department succeed.