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How to Delegate Like a Boss

No, offloading is not the same thing

Deborah Hill
Contributor

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Do you resist delegating out of fear the work won't get done well? Are you plagued with the nagging worry that sharing tasks with team members means losing control and respect? If delegating makes you feel uneasy, you're not alone. According to the Academy of Management, women struggle with delegating much more than men do. Given the pressure women feel to prove themselves at work, that’s not too surprising, but it does put us at risk of becoming micromanagers—which is way more stress than it’s worth.

Although you might think you can do the job better alone, it's often better for everyone if you don't. There’s research to back this up. In the U.S., we’re burning ourselves out with “workism,” and we see a measurable toll on our personal health, family relationships, and our connection to friends. What’s more, in the long run our companies are less productive the more we over-work. 

Delegating is a skill that takes practice. It’s not surprising that it feels scary to delegate work—especially if you are a junior employee or new to a supervisory role. So take a deep breath—here’s how to make it happen.

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Remember that delegating creates team capacity

It's not a weakness to ask for help—it's the smart way to develop your employees and teams. Delegating tasks demonstrates that you trust and value your team. It turns out, that's a big motivator for staff. The opportunity to collaborate with managers and teammates and feeling empowered and engaged are high on employees' wish list for employment. Think about how to use delegation to create opportunities for others to build technical skills, practice leadership, or enhance personal networks. Build depth of capability across your team to avoid choke points that stall projects and create tension.

How and what you delegate matters

The team needs to know you're sharing the tasks because the project is important to you—not because you don't want to do the work. And when it's all hands on deck to get a project done, don't just offload the scut work. A Gallup survey shows that building on employee strengths fuels employee satisfaction and productivity. Be strategic about how you share out the tasks and ask for team feedback on what makes the most sense. You're still responsible for the end product, but your goal is to create collaboration, creativity, and a sense of shared ownership.

Be clear about goals and expectations

Give your team a full briefing on the project, deadlines, and product requirements. Make it especially clear where there is room for creativity and where the product output is already defined and unchangeable. Discuss how decisions will get made, roles for each member of the staff, and what success will be.

Read more: 9 Mantras of Successful Working Women We Can All Live By

Stay supportively engaged

Let your team do their work. No one benefits from hand-wringing or having a manager or colleague looking over their shoulder. Do keep the team briefed on the project's overall progress and offer praise and encouragement. Make the most of the team's skill, experience, and expertise by regrouping when needed if the project isn't progressing as planned. And, check in with people in person when possible—not just via email or by phone.

Recognize contributions publicly and privately

Nothing crushes employee morale more than working hard on a project and then not being recognized. Celebrate project completion as a team and explicitly recognize the contributions each person made. Ask for feedback on what worked well and how the group can work together even better in the future. These simple things create camaraderie, and according to the Harvard Business Review, it's what makes teams excel. Ensure team members get recognized more broadly within the company.

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