How to delegate so it's worth your while

Feeling snowed under but unsure whether to pass your workload on to someone else? Here's a career masterclass in learning to delegate.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Have strong foundations. Fully engage and inform those to whom you are delegating. Explain the task, set targets, then ask questions to help them plan (what problems might you face? Who else will you involve?). Check their understanding by asking them to summarise the brief. 'OK, I've got it' isn't enough.

Choose carefully. Prioritise handing over projects where the best possible outcome is that nothing goes wrong (implementing a new email system, organising an office move). People will complain about mistakes and if all runs smoothly no one will notice.

Stay involved. Don't try to fully delegate a pet project. Instead, divide tasks into 'personal' (you) and 'practical' (them): they present the new costings; you explain the new vision.

Find Mr or Ms Right. Look for both experience and confidence. A bold beginner will make mistakes by running before he can walk; an insecure expert will need constant encouragement. Find a self-assured expert or do it yourself.

Share the load. Delegation won't work without support in place but it needn't all come from you. Offer guidance and feedback but save time by making resources (handbooks, blogs) available, and recruiting a mentor to keep people on track.

Be careful. Make sure your delegation is justifiable. Freeing yourself up for projects that benefit the business, letting others shine or matching work to people's strengths is one thing; laziness is another. Delegation that damages your relationships or your reputation is never worth your while.

Learn from it. If something goes wrong, help them to fix it quickly and limit the fallout, then discuss what you will both do differently next time. You have just as much to learn as they do.

Think twice. Involved in a high-profile project with people you rate? Keep hold of it. Your direct reports need opportunities to shine - but so do you.

The Mind Gym: Changing the way people think, feel and behave.

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