When workload is too much the obvious
solution is to delegate to someone else in the team, writes
Nathalie Towner. The odds are they’re keen to take on
some extra responsibility and it would free you up to concentrate
on your core activities. But there is an art to delegating
effectively and many of us find it hard to let go.
Excuses range from not having the time to show someone how to do
the job, not wanting to burden a colleague or lack of trust. But it
is a crucial skill to have if you are to be an effective
Knowing how to delegate properly can increase team motivation
and make people feel valued. But get it wrong and it leads to
discord and a job badly done.
When to delegate
Paula Rowe, regional manager for mental health provider Rethink,
believes delegating should be used to develop staff. “I match where
development is needed and what the individual’s career
interests are,” she says. Done properly Rowe believes it can aid
career progression and build confidence.
How to approach it
Rowe uses appraisals to see what competencies her staff want to
develop. “When I delegate I want it to be meaningful to the
organisation and the individual and not done without any forward
thinking,” she says. By viewing it as a career boost people are
likely to welcome the new responsibility and see it as a way of
growing in the organisation.
Don’t butt in
This is tricky: if you are too distant you won’t pick up
on problems or be offering proper guidance but if you are too
involved it can come across as lack of trust in the person’s
capability. Rowe recommends a careful balance to avoid the person
being too dependent but at the same time to make it very clear what
is expected of them. “Managers should identify areas where they
need support and provide training if needed,” she says. “Ensure
they reflect on how it is going and that you are not taking the
lead but be there if they need extra help.”
Avoid just using one person
It is all too easy to just keep delegating to the most reliable
and ambitious person in the team. It is time-consuming providing
support and if the person already knows what they are doing they
will need less input from you. To avoid this Rowe recommends a
planned approach to delegation, so tasks can be spread across the
group. It may even be possible to get one team member to coach
another if they have done it before.
If they are struggling
If the person is not coping with their new task then you will
have to step in. This is why it is important to be very clear about
your expectations and to give them regular milestones to achieve.
This makes it easier to go back and explain it is not working as
agreed. If it is just one particular issue you can step in to help
them get over this particular hurdle and then leave them to carry
It is equally important to provide praise for a job well done as
to go over any issues that have arisen. Be constructive with your
feedback. “People may not like it at the time but afterwards when
they have thought it through they will find your comments useful,”
says Rowe. It is particularly important to comment when the
assignment is complete but it is also worth giving feedback
throughout the process.