Delegation: three key areas to better managing workload

Do you find you have so many tasks on your plate, you don’t know which way to turn?

Do team members constantly come to you with problems, that you then try to resolve, leaving your own work to one side?

Are you still doing work you did as a more junior member of staff, which isn’t commensurate with your current position?

If so, you may need to remind yourself that you are now a manager, and learn to stop doing and start delegating.

Managers must learn how to manage their teams and delegate effectively, or they will lose control and respect, and become increasingly stressed.

In my many years as a trainer and a coach, I have worked with a lot of managers, both experienced and new to the role, who have struggled with the amount of work they have and feel unable to delegate tasks to their staff. They are generally working long hours, are very stressed, at risk of burnout, and know they are not performing as well as they could be.

Here are a few key strategies for learning to delegate:

Review your list of tasks

Consider (be honest!):

  • Which ones others can do quicker or with better timing
  • Which ones others can do better than you due to their strengths, knowledge or skills
  • Which ones others can do at less expense
  • Which ones might make a useful contribution to their training and development.

Be careful not to delegate beyond someone’s remit or level of authority.

Brief them well

When you hand a piece of work, teach them how to do it and when/how to report back to you. If you aren’t clear, they may make mistakes through lack of understanding. You may then feel it is easier to do it yourself.

Empower them and give them the tools to do the job. This way, you are encouraging an empowered culture around you of individuals who feel your confidence and respect in them. They will work harder to meet your expectations of them and strive to not disappoint you. You will have a much more productive team of people, who also have a high morale because of the trust you have shown in them. Delegating well will leave you free to focus on the bigger picture (your goals).

Discuss how their current workload may be affected and make any appropriate arrangements.

Monitor progress

This is probably the biggest stumbling block for every manager and where they are likely to struggle.

You have to strike the balance of showing trust in people;  empowering them and letting them learn, versus ensuring that the job is getting done to the right standard, for the good of the company. Too much involvement on your part will undermine your team and set them up to make mistakes because they are over-anxious about not making any errors. Conversely, by standing back to give your team too much space to perform, you could fail to catch mistakes, the organisation could suffer and ultimately it will be seen as your responsibility.

A famous (if somewhat extreme) example of an organisation not supervising a member of staff, comes from some twenty years ago, when the highly successful Barings Bank trader, Nick Leeson, managed to lose his employer over $1 billion through unauthorised trading and gambling. As Barings had given him responsibility of double-checking his own transactions, rather than reporting them to a superior, Leeson was able to hide losses he made from bad trades in a secret account. He then attempted to offset the losses with a series of increasingly risky trades, again unchecked, ultimately ending with Barings going bankrupt and him being jailed.

It is, however, important not to micro-manage. Have you ever tried typing on a keyboard whilst someone is watching you? You may as well be trying to type with your toes! No one works well when someone is hovering over them, watching every move.

  • Clarify your expectations, deadlines and any milestones at the outset
  • Establish how often review meetings will be held (Weekly? Fortnightly?)
  • Be available to give advice, and encourage them to ask questions
  • Be prepared to support and help them if errors are made
  • Celebrate their successes

Delegation often requires some investment of your time in the short-term but, in the long-term, you should reap the benefits of being able to empower your team to take more responsibility and free up your time to focus on tasks more commensurate with your managerial position.

For more help with managing your team, contact Janet Baker by calling 07944225290, or complete the form below, for further information on the coaching support we offer managers and senior executives and on the training courses we offer.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay