By Paola Pascual & Simon Kennell on Mar 21, 2022 3:11:18 PM
Delegating is an art. If you manage a team, you have probably either done it or should be doing it. It is a fundamental step in succeeding as a leader, as a team, and as a company. The question is - can you do it effectively?
John Hunt, London Business School professor, stated that only one-third of managers is considered a good delegator by their subordinates. In this episode, we explore the benefits of delegating and provide an effective framework that will help you delegate responsibility effectively.
What is delegation?
Delegation is the assignment of responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities. It means you are assigning responsibility, you're handing off, you're asking someone else to do something.
Delegation is a vital tool of management that not enough people do well, and it is ultimately a communication skill. You can learn it, practice it, and get better at it.
Why is delegating important?
Delegation of power is fundamental for the success of any organization, but why? What are the specific benefits of delegating?
- It increases productivity, allowing managers to focus on important matters
- It opens space for managers to think big picture
- It enables professional development, both for the person delegating and the one taking over
- It provides psychological safety and helps you build trust
Why do some managers rarely delegate?
If you are a manager, you may find it hard to delegate. You may not do it for several reasons.
- Limited time to train. Oftentimes, we think that it will be faster if we do it ourselves. We have limited time to train and prefer to take care of smaller tasks instead of teaching others how to do it. However, these small tasks do add up and end up taking up a lot of your time.
- Lack of trust. You may not be sure if the other person will be able to do a certain task. Perhaps they haven't proved that they have that skill. You don't fully trust them –just yet!
- Past failure. Did you try to delegate in the past and it didn't work? This past failure may be holding you back.
- Fear of losing control. Delegating means giving up part of your power and control, and that can be scary. You are not the only one in charge and success no longer depends on you.
- Guilt. Delegating is hard because it makes us feel guilty. Guilty because we may feel we are not enough if we need to delegate tasks and responsibilities. Guilty for handing off a task to one of your hardworking colleagues. For feeling that we're adding something else to an already full plate.
However, you need to know that delegating is not a choice, it is not a perk that managers have, and it is definitely not a way of ducking out of your responsibilities. Delegating is basic to the correct functioning of your team. As Andrew Carnegie said, "No person will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it." It's really about teamwork.
How to delegate effectively
"When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders".
How do you delegate power, responsibility, and authority? It's much more than asking someone to do a task. You're asking them to be accountable for it. Let's look at how to do it effectively.
1. Choose a specific person and tell them why
When you delegate, choose a specific person to take over. You need to make it specific to establish ownership and make them a part of it. Specify as well why you are choosing them and why it matters.
If you are delegating a project to more than one person, make sure you clarify who is responsible for what ("I'd love you to work with a colleague on this, but you each have responsibility for different parts of the project").
Example: I'd love you to get your help on this project. This is important for the company because we may be able to open up new markets for us. I want you to do this because I've seen the work that you did in the marketing department last year and it was great. So I really think that you will be the right person to do this.
2. Establish SMART goals
When you delegate, consider SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). Your request should be specific in the sense that you clearly state expectations, responsibilities, and tasks involved. Make sure it is measurable - how will you evaluate if they are doing a good job? Stop and think whether what you are asking is attainable. Are you asking for something realistic and feasible? Explain why it is relevant - this goes back to that initial why question. Why is does it matter and how will it help a bigger goal? And lastly, make sure it is time-based. Establish some deadlines and checkpoints.
3. Check for understanding
Once you've reached out to the specific person and presented your SMART goals, you then want to ask for understanding. This concept checking allows you to truly see if you are both on the same page.
A very common mistake is to ask "Do you understand?" If you are in a power position and you ask an employee, "Do you understand?" of course they want to sound like they understand. So they're probably going to say yes, even if they don't understand. Then they will try to figure it out on their own, taking longer than planned just because the expectations or instructions weren't clear enough. Some cultures are more prone to speak up and say that they don't understand than others. Don't assume that your employees will say that they don't understand when you ask them this question.
Instead, ask open questions to warm up the discussion:
- What do you think about this?
- What are your thoughts?
Once you've opened up the discussion, then you can ask more specific questions.
- Do you foresee any specific roadblocks that might prevent this from being done?
- What are your concerns with how to carry this out?
- Do you feel like you have the necessary resources right now to do this?
- Does this sound like something that that you'd be interested in?
4. Offer help
When delegating, you always want to offer help, but you also want to make sure you don't get in the way. A nice phrase to use here is, "If anything is getting in the way of your progress, let me know as soon as possible and we'll figure out a solution." If there is a different person they can reach out to, let them know as well. This takes the pressure off the employee and gives them the confidence to take over the task or project.
If they need some quick training, a great framework is "I do - we do - you do". Which, in summary, means, you watch me do it. Then we do it together. And now you try on your own. Also provide examples whenever possible. Find how similar work was done previously or where they can find more information. This shows that you are invested in their success and also helps them have a better idea of how things should look.
Here are some helpful phrases:
- "If anything gets in the way of your progress, please let me — or the team — know ASAP so we can figure out a solution."
- "You can find examples of previous, similar work here."
- "I would check out ___ –they have some great resources on this topic."
5. Schedule periodic check-ins
If the task or project at hand is big or important, establish periodic check-ins with the employee and set up expectations with deadlines and milestones. Frame it as an opportunity for you two to meet and bring up any issues or challenges they may be having (not as 'I am watching you').
Remember to be as specific as possible and establish SMART goals. Check for understanding with open-ended questions, and always offer help and resources. Did we miss anything? Tell us in the comments below.
This article works as supporting material for our podcast episode on delegating You can read the transcript below. Make sure you check out all our other Talaera Talks episodes and subscribe to get new episode alerts.
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Talaera Talks - Transcript Episode 40
If you are learning English, including new English words and expressions will help you with effective communication. Remember to check out our other episodes on how to make small talk, how to deliver engaging presentations, how to speak English fluently, and many more: visit the podcast website. Listen to it on your favorite platform.
Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non-native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co-hosting this show with Simon. In this podcast, we're going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show!
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Talaera Talks. My name is Simon, and as always, wherever you are, I hope you're having an awesome day. Whether you are doing your laundry or going for a walk or doing the dishes, whatever you do while you listen to Talaera Talks, I hope that it's going well and that you're enjoying it.
Today, I have a very interesting short Talaera a bit for you. And it's one that when we especially when we speak with managers, and some of our clients that that work in teams, and in management positions, leadership positions, we work on this a little bit - The Art of Delegation, and it is an art. Delegating is an art.
What is delegation? Well, if you are a leader, you either probably have done this or have to do this. If you haven't done this, then I'm really, really surprised because it's critical. It's the assignment of responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities. So what does that mean? You're assigning responsibility, you're handing off, you're asking someone else to do something. And this delegation is a huge part of, of succeeding as a company as a as a manager. I mean, there's so many statistics around this. One of the most famous is from the London Business School, this professor John Hunt, he said that 30% of managers believe they can delegate well, but only a third of them is considered a good delegator by their team. Right? So this is a tool that is critical to business success, but also success of the team. And it's a communication skill. That's simply what it is.
As well, for that employee, it provides them with a chance to develop professionally and that's huge, you're you're you're kind of another great idiom, you're killing two birds with one stone. You're taking some space off from yourself, and giving it to someone else. And you're also providing them with a development opportunity. And then another one, which I think is huge, as well as it, it provides psychological safety, because it builds trust, it shows to that employee that you trust them well enough to delegate a responsibility. Now, many managers I think, probably have a hard time doing this, or they don't do it for several reasons. One of them being a big one we hear all the time is I don't have time, there's no time to train, or it'll just be faster if I do it myself. And this is one we hear all the time. And a big reason for that is Yeah, I know how to do it, and it's fine, but if you have 100 of those small things that you can do yourself, well, then that's going to take up a lot of time. Right?
As well, there's a lack of trust, right? I don't know if they'll be able to do that. I don't know if John will be able to do that. You know, he hasn't really shown that he can do a skill or do tasks like this. So I'm not sure. Maybe it hasn't worked in the past. Maybe there's a fear of losing control. That's a very common one. And then as well, guilt, you know, if you're working in a small team, and you see how hard your employees work all the time, you may feel guilty that yeah, I don't want to hand off a task onto them. And I know how hard they work. They have a everybody's very busy, right? So these are all reasons people don't do it. But ultimately, it's very well studied that delegating is an incredibly important part of succeeding as a business, as a team... I mean, there's so many you know, Andrew Carnegie himself said, you know, "no person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit", right? So it's a really a team.
And, you know, I found this other great quote about delegation - "When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders". And we're going to talk a little bit about that. How do we delegate tasks? Because notice, I said delegation is the assignment of responsibility to another person to carry out activities. So we're going to be delegating responsibility and authority here. So how do we do it? Let's get to it. How do we do it?
Well, when we delegate, we need to choose one person, we need to make it very specific, who, and when you are delegating this task to this employee, you want to make sure that you're establishing why you're choosing them and why it matters. And then you want to ask them if they agree, this is really important, because you're creating ownership, you're establishing that ownership and making them a part of it. So listen, I want to work with you on on this. I mean, this is a big task for us. And this is a big project for the company. I think, you know, this has the the capability of really increasing our brand awareness in this market. I want you to do this, because I've seen the work that you did in the marketing department last year. And I really thought, you know, it looked really great. So I really think that you will be the right person to do this. Do you agree? Does this sound like something that that you'd be interested in? Okay, so right there, I'm asking them about this, I'm telling them, I want to hand it off to them. But I'm also asking them and getting them on board. Now, most times, they should want to agree, if you're choosing the right person they would want they would probably want to agree. Now you can the way you bring it up, you can say a couple things like I'd like you to oversee, I'd like you to supervise or I'd like to hand this off to you because I'm assigning you this task, because why? Right or even you can say, Yeah, I need to delegate this task to you, for XYZ reasons but important that you're specifying why you're choosing them, and why it matters to the company, what's the big picture?
Now, when you are delegating, it's also important to think about the basics, the very fundamental things, because in your head, it might make total sense, but we want to make sure they understand. One good framework to think about here is SMART goals. So S M A R T - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. So this touches on all of the little things that we want to make sure we want to make sure that what you're asking is specific. We want to make sure that you can measure it that you can see how it's going. Is it being closer to success? Is it getting? You know, is it getting there, we want to make sure it's attainable, which means that is this actually realistic? Right? Is it relevant? Why does it matter? That goes back to that WHY question. Why does that matter to the company? Why does it matter to what we need to do? And is it time based? When does? When are the deadlines? When are the checkpoints? These are all things that you should think about before you bring it up to the employee. Just because they these are the questions they're going to ask.
Then you want to ask for understanding right, or you want to check for understanding. And we've talked about this before. You brought this up to the employee, they you talked about it a little bit, you've talked about the specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based points, but now you want to make sure that they really understand. So a big mistake that a lot of people make is asking, do you understand? Because if you're in a power position, and you ask an employee, "Do you understand?" of course they want to sound like they understand. So they're gonna say yes, even if they don't understand, then they're just gonna think okay, I'll just have to figure this out later, right. So, you want to ask, What do you think about this? Or what are your thoughts? This is opening up the discussion, this is an open question. We want to ask, what are your thoughts? Then, you can ask more specific questions like Do you foresee any specific roadblocks that you think will prevent this from being done? Or what are your concerns with how you know how are you going to do this or you know, do you feel like you have the the necessary resources right now to do this? So, these are questions that you can ask, but you always want to start with an open question and see, see if they, yeah, if they if they understand.
Now, if you know, they need training, some small immediate training. A good rule is - I do, we do, you do. Which means you watch me do it. Then we do it together. And now you try on your own. That's a very kind of quick and and you know rough way to do it. But it is something that that is a good kind of a good rule of thumb, when you need to do fast, quick training.
Now we're getting towards the end. You're having this conversation, you've brought up the specific SMART goals, you've checked for understanding, you've had a discussion about why you're doing this, why they're the one that you're choosing to do this. And now we want to offer help. Now, we want to be careful here. We want to offer help, but we want to not you, we want to make sure we don't get in the way. So a good phrase to use here is, so if anything is getting in the way of your progress, let me or, and you can bring up a person that they can reach out to let them know, as soon as possible and we'll figure out a solution. This kind of takes the pressure off the employee to think, okay, I can count go to someone, someone specific if I need to, because they will probably feel a little hesitant to come to you with a problem. It's better to do that than to have them wait all the way until the end and come up with a product that isn't as good as you thought.
Finally, you want to establish check ins, and this is going to be very important as well, if it's something that you need to watch, if it's an employee that you know, okay, this is a big project for them. Establish periodic check ins, you can say, hey, let's meet at the same time every two weeks and touch base on how it's going. Does that work for you? So there, it's it's open, right? And we're not saying I'm watching you, it's, I'm giving you an opportunity for us to meet and for you to Yeah, bring up any issues or challenges you're having, as well bring up any specific deadlines and prepare check ins before those deadlines. So okay, we've gone a little bit over here, we've discussed what, how and when we delegate. Now, how do we do it, we want to make sure that we're bringing the person a specific person asking why or telling them why you're choosing them and why it matters. That's two very important points. Then we want to consider SMART goals, right? Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Those are all clear points that they'll probably be wondering when you bring them into your office, or when you're giving them a call to delegate a task.
You want to make sure that you're checking for understanding and remember, open question at the beginning. So what do you think about it? Or what are your thoughts? Not a yes or no, because you'll always get a yes, it's fine, right? So you want to make sure that's a conversation that you have, and you're checking for understanding there. You want to make sure that you offer help, right, as well provide some examples. And then finally, you want to establish some check ins. And this will be a good way that you'll be able to measure progress. So again, all of this is going to be a conversation that you have together with the employee. And sometimes it may be two conversations. But the important point is you're investing that time upfront, that's going to save you a lot more time down the line when that employee will be able to do it without you without your oversight. And you can just consider the bigger things, the bigger picture tasks that you need to work on. So remember, it is an investment of your time. But a successful company, like Andrew Carnegie stated, you know, is not about the one person it's about a team.
So that is our Talaera Bit for today. And we have a ton of upcoming interviews some further Talaera Talks episodes. And I have to say I'm so excited about some of the guests that we're coming up with and we're as well we're going to be having some really exciting webinars coming up. So stay tuned as always, wherever you are, keep learning.
And that's all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it, and remember to subscribe to Talaera Talks. We'll be back soon with more! And visit our website at https://talaera.com for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning!