How not to be a 'yes' person – the art of delegation

You constantly feel overwhelmed; you work overtime more often than not; and you’ve been putting off important tasks to attend to more menial jobs for weeks. As business etiquette expert Danielle Di-Masi would say, you’re “stuck in the busy”.

Delegation – what does it really mean?

Delegating is a great way to free up your time and energy for tasks that use your skills more effectively and benefit the business (and its employees) as a whole, according to Ms Di-Masi.

She says the need to delegate can spring from a lack of time, ability or need. “Sometimes you’re not the best person to do [the job], or you can do it, but are you holding onto the task unnecessarily?”

Delegation, she says, is not about handballing your task and losing sight of the ball; rather it involves assigning the task while maintaining responsibility for its completion. “It doesn’t disappear from the book; you become the project manager.”

Delegation is also not an opportunity to abuse power by offloading tasks you simply can’t be bothered doing. “It’s not about not being bothered to do it. You must communicate why the other person is being handed the task so they don’t think you’re lazy,” explains Ms Di-Masi. 

Also, realise that the person receiving the task may not necessarily occupy a junior position compared to you. “Delegation isn’t just a top-down thing. You can delegate back up for the greater team,” says Ms Di-Masi, explaining that this can occur when an employee feels too inexperienced for a task or overloaded.

Delegate well and the rewards will follow

Effective delegation cannot only benefit the individual; it can pay dividends to the team and company. 

According to Ms Di-Masi, “when you delegate and see progress, it’s amazing”.

For the individual, the obvious benefits include reduced stress levels and work hours. The person “can achieve more balance and be more effective in [his or her] role doing tasks that are urgent and important, not just urgent.” She also says delegating provides “the opportunity to build great relationships”.

For the person receiving the task, Ms Di-Masi says the chances to “step up”, “get upskilled” and “show their capabilities” are huge benefits. The opportunity “might move the person towards their goals and [help him or her] be a team player,” she adds.

Lastly, from the team’s or business’ perspective, delegation facilitates progress and, ultimately, “gets stuff done”, according to Ms Di-Masi. “Humans love progress and a sense of accomplishment. [Delegating effectively makes] people feel valuable ... and helps keep employees healthy, motivated and engaged.” 

Delegation – a scary word?

When done well, delegation makes sense, so why are some workers hesitant to try it?

“People fear how delegation will be perceived,” says Ms Di-Masi. “They don’t want to appear lazy, especially if they’re new to the team.”

Others may have a fear of letting go, due to pride or a feeling of ownership. “Sometimes, you know you’re holding onto something you shouldn’t be – it’s your baby.” Or, you might think “I can do it better”, explains Ms Di-Masi, adding: “It’s not always about it being better. Sometimes you’ve just got to get the task done.”

She says when delegation is needed but not used, there are many signs: “stress, built up resentment, feeling overwhelmed, procrastination”.

“You’ve really got to step back and ask, ‘Am I in the best situation?’”

How to delegate effectively

Delegation is a skill you can learn. Here are Ms Di-Masi steps to mastering the art:

  • Determine what (and what not) to delegate. “Look objectively at your goals and ambitions. You know what you’ve got to get done. Put a timeline into place to identify the overlaps and where you need help.” Ms Di-Masi suggests getting everything on paper for a clear snapshot. Be honest with yourself. If the situation doesn’t call for delegation, don’t procrastinate. “Sometimes delegation isn’t the magic key. Sometimes you just have to do [the task yourself].”
  • Find the right person for the job. Ensure the person has the time and skills or potential to complete the task. “Make sure [assigning the task to this person] is the best decision for the team.” 
  • Respect your colleague’s time. If you know that you’re not going to get to a task and it needs to be delegated, don’t procrastinate. Delegate it as soon as possible to give your colleague adequate time to complete it.
  • Provide adequate guidance and support. Ms Di-Masi recommends having a face-to-face or phone conversation with the person to ensure he or she fully understands what’s required. Depending on your colleague’s familiarity with the task, you might need to delegate in increments and offer training. “Sometimes, before you can delegate, you have to upskill. You might start the person off doing 20 per cent of the task, then 30 per cent, then eventually 100 per cent, under your supervision.” Also, remember to “give the person every possible tool or resource to get it done”.
  • Manage (don’t micromanage). While it’s important not to forget the task, you also don’t want to be a helicopter manager. “Don’t wipe your hands of the task completely. Negotiate times to catch up to discuss progress and provide support.”

At the end of the day, don’t forget to thank your colleague for a job well done. After all, delegation can’t happen without the people around you.

Danielle Di-Masi is a business trainer, presenter, columnist and award-winning blogger. Her expertise has featured in Cosmopolitan, The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, Yahoo Small Business, ABC Radio and other media. 

By Kate Cross, HealthLogix Reporter. Copyright HealthLogix

Balance Blog Team

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