How to Delegate Like the Boss You Are

Delegating, the art of transferring responsibilities from one person to another. Not only does learning to delegate free up time in your schedule to focus on higher level tasks, it also helps you grow a team of empowered and self-sufficient employees for your business. In fact, according to a Gallup study, CEOs adept in delegation generate 33% higher revenue.

But just because delegating is an important management skill, doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. A study from the late London Business School professor John Hunt tells us that only about 30% of managers think they can delegate effectively. So if delegation doesn’t come naturally to you, you’re not alone, and we at EFBC are here to help with five steps you can take to learn to delegate and lead like the boss you are:

  1. Identify What to Delegate
    Not everything can be delegated but identifying what can be is half the battle. Start by making a list of all your responsibilities. Then, decide which tasks absolutely need to be done by you. Usually, these will be the tasks that are both important and urgent. If something is neither of those things, it can be delegated. If it is urgent but not important, it can probably also be delegated. The grey area comes when a task is important, but not urgent. For these tasks, ask yourself probing questions about why or why not you might want to delegate them. Will delegating a certain task free you up, as a manager, to help move the business forward? Or will it help one of your employees grow further towards a goal or future position? If the answer to either of those questions is “yes,” the task should be delegated.
  2. Know Your Team
    Each of your employees comes with a set of strengths and goals. The best managers know what those are and take them into account when delegating, whether to grow that employee or put them in a position at which they will excel. And taking time to learn employee strengths has proven payoffs. The Gallup Organization’s “State of the American Workplace” study found teams that focus on strengths have 12.5% greater productivity than those who don’t. So if you get to know your team and put your aces in your places, half of the delegation battle will already be won.
  3. Define Success
    When delegating tasks and responsibilities, it is important to make sure your employees know how to handle their new roles successfully. Think of what success looks like when you complete a task and make sure your delegatee has the required information to achieve that same success. They should have a good idea of what a “job well done” looks like, as well as the metrics you will use to evaluate them and how everything ties into the overall mission and values of your company.
  4. Establish a Failure -> Feedback Loop
    Even if you do a great job defining success, your employees still may fail in their new roles, and that’s okay. Offer constructive criticism and check in to make sure your employees implement your feedback in subsequent tasks. To ensure that you are delegating effectively, also provide employees opportunities to give YOU feedback. One company that does this in an innovative way is the MITRE Corporation, where Senior Principal Systems Engineer Dan Ward has implemented a “failure ritual” that involves eating cake while reflecting on past failures and learning from mistakes. According to Ward, “being honest about failure and having something sweet…helps reduce the pain and shame of the experience.” Think about what a failure ritual might look like for your company. Maybe it doesn’t involve cake, but perhaps there’s something you can do to ensure that your employees can be forthright about their failures and ameliorate them for the next time.
  5. Give Authority and Recognition
    This is where you need to fight the urge to micromanage. Once a task is assigned, it is beneficial to give a delegatee authority to make decisions within the scope of their new responsibilities. Establish a communication channel in which questions can be asked of course, but if your employee feels like you’re looking over their shoulder at every turn, they won’t be able to have those moments of failure that lead to growth. Not to mention the fact that you won’t have achieved the point of delegation in the first place: getting a task off your plate. And when someone does a good job, give them credit! This can be something simple, like a shout out in a meeting, or you can follow in the footsteps of over 80% of Fortune 500 companies and implement a formal employee recognition system like Bonusly, Bucketlist, or Motivosity.

Delegating isn’t easy, but following our five tips will help you to cultivate a dynamic and motivated team that contributes to the success of your organization. And the more you practice delegating, the more effective you will become in your role as a manager.