How to delegate

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Some managers think they delegate well when they delegate all the routine rubbish and, of course, all the blame. This pleases the manager more than the team. Effective delegation is the way to better performance for the boss and the team, but it requires courage, discipline and self-awareness.

Here are ten simple tips on good delegation:

  • 1. Know your value:

    If you are doing tasks which you did in your previous role, you should not have been promoted. Demote yourself. You do not add value by doing the job of your team, even if you think you can do it better than they can. You must do something different from the team: organise and build the team; manage the politics; find the right assignments.

  • 2. If in doubt, delegate:

    There is very little that can not be delegated. Ricardo Semler has built one of the biggest businesses in Brazil by delegating everything: teams even decide on their own pay and conditions and hire their managers.

  • 3. Be clear about outcomes:

    what you expect and when you expect it. Even if you have to brief the team three times to achieve clarity, do so. If there is any room for ambiguity, you will be misunderstood. Do not blame the team, blame yourself: your team is not psychic and can not read your mind. Clarity avoids rework, conflict and loss of morale and confidence later on.

  • 4. Be flexible about the means:

    You may think you are the only person who knows how to do anything properly. But let your team surprise you: they may even come up with a better way of doing the task.

  • 5. Let go:

    Do not check every five minutes to see how the team is going. Show some trust in your team, and if they are any good they will respond by making it happen. You will need regular updates, but if you have too many of them the team will spend all their time preparing updates for you, not doing the actual work.

  • 6. Be available:

    Encourage the team to talk through any issues they have. Do not dictate the answer to them: help them discover the answer themselves. You do not need to show your brilliance by telling them the answer: they will simply learn to depend on you for everything.

  • 7. Stretch the team:

    Pressure is good: that is how people find a sense of accomplishment, find new and creative ways of doing things and develop new skills. But if pressure is good, stress is bad. The difference is control: as long as they feel under control they will experience pressure, not stress. Delegating well gives them control and avoids stress. You will know when you have overstretched them: they will complain.

  • 8. Delegate meaningful work, not just the routine rubbish:

    Do not keep all the juicy jobs for yourself.

  • 9. Never delegate the blame, unless you want a dysfunctional and political team that does no more than cover its backside:

    You can delegate authority, you can not delegate responsibility: you are always responsible for the outcomes of your team.

  • 10. Delegate the praise:

    This strengthens you: it builds loyalty, trust and respect from your team. It also shows your bosses and colleagues that you are a smart and effective boss. By delegating praise you attract praise to yourself.


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