Managers Notebook: How to Delegate

Expert advice for managers and supervisors

Instead of trying to do it all, learn how to hand off some tasks to optimize your time and efficiency

While many people believe that they accomplish more by doing more, that’s not always the case, according to Loretta Love Huff, a business coach and consultant in Phoenix. When you have too many tasks, you spread yourself too thin and all your work can suffer in the process. By delegating tasks, you free yourself up to spend more time doing what will move you toward your goals. Love Huff adds, “You want to leverage your skills and gifts for their most productive use.”

Though common sense suggests that we’d all appreciate a helping hand, many people struggle with delegating because they equate handing over tasks to others with admitting they can’t handle the job, experts say. Others are afraid that those they delegate to will either outshine them or perform poorly. “It’s your ego that tells you you’re the only one who can do this,” says Cherry A. Collier Ph.D., a life and executive coach in Atlanta.

So while one part of effective delegating involves getting over yourself, another requires establishing an effective formula to work from so you can develop the willingness to delegate and the confidence to trust the results.

Consider these four ways to loosen your grip:

Evaluate your workload. Do a cost-benefit analysis. Make a list of the worst things that could happen if you delegate, as well as the potential benefits, suggests Love Huff. Compare the worst-case scenarios with what you can potentially achieve, and determine how you would respond if the worst-case scenario occurred. Remember to include the intangibles you’d gain, such as a lower stress level, by eliminating some of your responsibilities. For some, having too much to do can paralyze them from doing anything.

Start small. Don’t start off giving all your tasks away. “If you’re nervous, start with something small,” Love Huff advises. When you see that the person is able to handle the task, it will give you the confidence to let go of bigger things. Also, it’s OK to hold on to tasks that you enjoy doing or that you feel are integral to your role.

Think win-win. You’re not the only one who benefits when you delegate; others get the opportunity to learn new skills. “The more you let go, the more you’re helping to build up other people,” says Collier. If you’re worried that the person will do a better job than you did, consider their success a reflection of your leadership and training, not to mention that you’ll probably do your remaining tasks better now that you have more time.

Realize that delegating is good. Delegating does not reflect negatively on you. Collier says if you have the opportunity to delegate, you improve your communication and leadership skills. She adds, “In most cases, when you see a successful person, that person is not successful without having delegated.”

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