What is delegating? In simple terms, delegating refers to sharing or transferring responsibilities to someone else. It is a vital skill for leaders at any level and is an essential trait for those who work in teams.

A common cause of why leaders “underdelegate” is a fear of failure. Putting important duties in someone else’s hands often results in a loss of control but without a reduction in accountability. Others may feel like it will take longer to delegate work rather than doing it themselves, increasing their own workload with those added management responsibilities. Cynically, leaders may avoid delegating due to self-interest and insecurities about their position being under threat should one of their team members outshine them.

Such underdelegation could also come down to a knowledge gap on how to delegate effectively. How can this be helped? Personally, I think there are a few ways to go about it.

Know your employee’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can delegate appropriate tasks. This can be done through building relationships and paying interest to their successes and failures. A full understanding of your team will also help ease their insecurities, knowing that you have delegated a task correctly. Following on from this, empower the individual with the necessary tools to be successful. This may seem like an obvious point but it is nevertheless crucial.

Clear communication plays a critical part, as it will provide the individual with a full understanding of tasks, timescales, and expectations. Following up with written confirmation can be an added benefit, as the individual will then have a concrete agenda to refer back to. It is also useful to implement a plan to follow up with the individual throughout the process to discuss any challenges and if they require support. There is always room for improvement, so implementing a post-project feedback session is a fantastic way to do this. Have an open dialogue and be accepting of feedback, which will allow both parties to make improvements.

Benefits of communication in the workplace

  • Efficiency – it enables you to focus on more strategic aspects of your job that could be adding additional value to the business.
  • Development – you assist others to learn new skills, and to make decisions that will prepare them to take on senior roles in the future.
  • Trust building – you develop trust and build synergy within the workforce for better collaboration.
  • Confidence boost - individuals feel valued and are interested in the diversity of work. As an outcome, they will feel encouraged to do their best. Similarly, this will improve retention levels.
  • Business expansion – there is only so much one person can do, and effective delegation facilitates growth.

What about the disadvantages of delegating?

  • Success is reliant on the individual performing the task – so the quality of work could be impaired, especially if the task was delegated to the incorrect person. This can then lead to the individual feeling frustrated, damaging their confidence.
  • Leaders may divert too many responsibilities onto others, which could in turn cause conflict as a team may feel overutilised.
  • Extra expense – you may have to invest in training for an individual to execute a task.

Delegation can positively impact a business, but it should not be applied as an opening to force unsavory tasks onto individuals.

Trust is a crucial part of delegating, and a leader needs to “learn to let go” and not unwittingly limit their team and the business. Tasks should be delegated to the right individuals, allowing for independence and originality, whilst at the same time providing feedback throughout the process. In my role here at 6 Group when I assess candidates for Executive Leadership positions, analysing the ability of a leader to delegate ‘effectively’ can be an important part of the process. Those who delegate too little can be perceived as lacking control; on the other hand, doing it too much is just as ineffective and may appear autocratic or even lazy. Those that can’t delegate can often struggle to find space to be strategic and become less effective over the longer term. Finding a balance is key!

If you want to know how to effectively assign tasks across your team and gain valuable insights into your leadership style, contact 6 Group for a detailed conversation.

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