Delegation tip: Who Do You Delegate To?

S’obvious innit? Surely one delegates to one’s subordinates? Well, usually, yes, the people who report to a manager are the prime candidates for being delegated to. So let’s start with them. Say you have a team of people and they have set job descriptions, roles and responsibilities. So far, so good. However… to really get the best from people we know that it’s good for them to have clear goals and objectives, and it’s good for them to play to their strengths more of the time. So it can be worth stepping back and looking at the strengths of your team as a whole. It just might be that you can switch some tasks around and gain a disproportionate boost in performance.

If you’re having regular 1:1 conversations with your team, and regular team catch-ups, then a) congratulations and well done and b) you’re probably pretty clear on who’s doing what and who wants to do something else/additional/instead. You can use both the 1:1 and team discussions to find out. What are the tasks that each person would like more/less of? What are their strengths and weaknesses? It may be that you can re-allocate tasks within the team and better harness strengths, manage or mitigate the effect of weaknesses and have a team that’s happier, more motivated and more productive.

You can also find out in 1:1 conversations what kind of work represents a stretch or a challenge for someone. If this challenge is going to help them learn, grow, develop and make progress towards goals and objectives, then delegate it right away. If the person is struggling to see the relevance of the work, or isn’t particularly motivated to do it, then that might be a different kind of conversation, more about managing expectations and performance and most importantly, where such work fits in the overall organisational picture (rather than, Well, someone’s got to do it).

You might find that sharing a task will allow your team members to peer coach and get something done in far less time, boosting productivity whilst ensuring people feel fairly treated.

Taking this thought a little further, it may be that you can delegate beyond your direct reports. For example, hook up with people in other departments who have expertise and strengths that don’t figure quite so much your own area. Find out what they want to achieve for themselves and their teams, and aim to identify some mutually beneficial areas. You may be able to extend peer coaching across departments, for example improving IT skills, financial task capability, or presentation skills.

And of course you can delegate upwards – to your own line manager, department head or senior management. The same basic principles apply: give a clear brief, explain the reasons for the task, how this contributes to the organisation’s performance and what is needed from that individual. OK, so the tone you take applying the principles may be a little different, and of course the person may have their own views on how to go about it, but this is well worth a go.

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