Task delegation is probably one of the most crucial skills for management positions and yet isn’t talked about nearly enough. Some will even go as far as consider delegation as slang they never want to hear.
But that’s far from the ideal mindset.
The truth is, delegation is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal whether you’re a team manager, a product development executive in charge of product improvements, a sales manager, or an HR executive.
We took a close look at why delegation is so un(!)popular and how it can bring in more value for a business.
So let’s get to it!
What is task delegation?
In short, delegating tasks is the process of assigning tasks to subordinates to maintain the efficiency of the whole department or business. However, it’s got a bit more nuance in it.
It’s not just about taking tasks off your plate and onto the junior managers. There’s objective science to delegating tasks, that also needs easily identifiable goals.
Broadly speaking, task delegation is evaluating tasks (based on value, cost, and outcome) and finding the right person and method of doing the job while making sure the outcomes are reproducible regardless of who actually does the job.
So it’s not just the task, nor the person doing it. It’s about finding the right set of conditions to match the person with the task and minimize the wastage of resources in the process.
Types of delegation
When considering delegation it’s important to consider its variety. In general, delegation works in these ways.
First, it’s delegating within the company and to your subordinates. In this case, although you delegate the task the responsibility still falls on your shoulders. You can’t delegate and then blame.
Second, you can delegate responsibility as well as the task. In this case, the individual will not be a subordinate but rather a peer who shares equal responsibility as you.
Lastly, it’ll be outside the company or outsourced support as some call it. It could be a consultant, a hire, or even a freelancer. The point of this delegation is to minimize time and resource costs while getting the job done by an actual expert.
Where is delegation important?
Delegation is crucial for any sort of managerial or executive role. These roles are usually responsible for multiple tasks with varying outcomes and moving timeframes. Having to juggle varied tasks while also being in a leadership position is distracting and poor use of time and effort.
Other than that, anyone can use delegation if the task is too menial. The one question that answers whether you need to delegate or not is “Is this task the best use of my time and skills?”
And yet, people cannot seem to find the motivation to practice delegation in their day-to-day lives.
The mindset conflict with delegating tasks
There are two kinds of people that get to high positions in any business. The doers and the leaders. Now the doers like to think no one’s better at their job than they are, and in most cases that’s true. However, they forget the simple fact that, even if they’re the best for the task, is the task best for them?
This is what separates the leaders because they value their time and abilities not only based on their efficiency but also through the value the task generates. Leadership isn’t about doing everything, it’s about doing what’s valuable.
To be a leader and manage the delegation of tasks these are the rules you can follow.
Doing less and getting more done: The art of delegation
Delegation starts with tasks and people that can do it, or at least have the potential to take the challenge on. But the overall process is as follows.
Evaluate time to cost
The first thing to consider is the task’s time-to-cost ratio. If someone can complete the task faster than you then that’s an ideal task to delegate. This is the basic efficiency play. You can consider the same thing when it comes to the cost of doing a job.
If someone can do a job for $10/hour while your per-hour value is above that, you doing the job yourself is losing you money regardless of how fast or how well you execute the task. Overall, if the task costs more in time or resources than it would with delegation, it’s best to delegate it.
Efficiency vs. Quality
For every task quality is important. However, quality doesn’t trump efficiency when considering the cost of a task. Maybe you can ensure a good outcome if you do it yourself, but it will put three more tasks in your backlog. That’s not efficient. Some will even argue it’s a waste.
The best course is to evaluate the efficiency against the quality. Some tasks need to be done in a fixed time frame and that’s the only way it can provide value. If that is the case, delegation is the best option to ensure the task is done on time with as much efficiency as possible.
A big part of delegation is considering if delegating the task reduces effort on your end without compromising outcomes. Every manager and executive has a ton of responsibilities. The sooner you can minimize effort on your end as a manager the more efficiently you can focus your expertise to where it generates the most value.
Once you’ve evaluated the task it’s now time to duplicate the process of completing that task. If you’re good at the task and need to delegate it, make sure you communicate your process and show them how to duplicate it. Process duplication will ensure the outcomes will be within the range of your expectation. Without this, you can’t delegate with certainty for success.
While showing the process is great, it’s still important to consider the skill set of the individual before delegating. The task, however menial, needs to fit with the mindset of the individual responsible for it. Sending in a plumber to do an IT technician’s job isn’t delegation, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Inspect then trust
Once you’ve matched the skills and provided the framework it’s time to monitor and evaluate. Don’t blindly trust people to execute a task flawlessly on the first go. It rarely happens in the real world. The best policy is to inspect initial outcomes to make sure they have got the hang of it. Once you’re sure they can complete the task without supervision, trust them to do the task on their own accord.
Convey outcomes and expectations
It’s crucial to communicate the outcomes you expect from the task. Training someone to do something but not telling them what the outcomes should be is poor delegation at best. The person you’re delegating to needs to understand the stakes and value associated with their task. Otherwise, they can never ensure the expected outcomes. As a manager delegating the task, it’s your responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Consider the value generated
While delegating it’s also important to evaluate the value the task generates compared to the cost to the business. If the task takes more than it generates value, you need to first establish why it needs to be done. Only after establishing the value can you consider delegation.
Last but not least it’s crucial to think of yourself as the leader. Whether you’re the CEO or a departmental executive, your team will always look up to you for direction. In these positions, it’s more important to be effective than an all-rounder. If it’s not worth leadership involvement, it should be delegated.
That too is not only to reduce your own workload but to also allow your subordinates to expand their skills and contributions to the business.
What can’t be delegated?
So that’s how you delegate. Now let’s look at what you can’t delegate.
If your job involves a high-level skill it simply can’t be delegated. Think about it, if a heart-surgeon delegates an operation to a nurse is that how things work? No, it doesn’t!
Similarly, if your tasks involve a specific set of skills that aren’t available in your company, your task can’t be delegated. A good example of this is customer service management. There are certain specific customer service skills that you need to have to handle service tasks. It’s ideal to only let the experts handle the process.
Customers don’t connect with brands or companies. They connect with people. The people in your customer relations team are the one’s customers or clients are most familiar with. To replace any one of them or to delegate their tasks you’ll need someone at least equally amiable and understanding. Send someone with “0” people skills and that could be the last decision you make.
Sales are one of the most important tasks for a business. It’s what keeps the money flowing. Hence, the sales job is one of the most sensitive jobs inside a company. The best way is to evaluate the sales team for the value they generate and enable them to do their job to the best of their abilities. Don’t even let them consider delegating tasks from the sales team because it simply doesn’t work that way.
No matter where the crisis occurs as a leader or manager you need to put yourself in the loop. Every crisis comes with two facets. One is the possible loss it can incur if it’s not handled properly, and the other is the opportunity it brings to capitalize and gain from it. As a leader, you need to be part of the process to effectively identify when these choices need to be made. More often than not, a crisis could be nipped in the bud if you were involved but will metastasize into something out of your control without your involvement.
Negotiations are just as important as sales. While sales work with individual customers, negotiations work with vast amounts of money and equally important deals. Negotiating skills are not transferable, so even if you replicate the delegation process you can’t be sure the outcomes will be as you expect. When it comes to negotiations, make a point of being in the room.
In a leadership position, you are actually more responsible for the brand reputation than the people working the front lines. So when it comes to delegating tasks, leave the tasks with brand impact out. Every manager and executive has a duty to uphold and showcase the brand’s values and story. It’s not enough to just write brand story copies and leave them be. You need to be a real insight into the company values and the brand.
So that’s the delegation process summarized for any business. While the factors to evaluate may vary between industries the basic concept remains the same. Delegation is the only way you can get more done by doing less. While it sounds counter-productive, it’s the #1 lesson big business figures vouch for over and over again. It helps you scale better and grow to your maximum potential while helping everyone involved to actualize theirs.