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Focus on these things to succeed in Workplace Communication Skills

Learn to Use Delegation as a Tool to Develop & Engage Employees


By Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions

{#/pub/images/DelegationasaDevelopmentTool.jpg}You’re good at what you do, but you may be doing too much by hanging on to work that you shouldn’t be doing. No matter what your job title is, there are people around you who could take on some of your tasks.  Delegating some of your work to them will benefit you, them, and your company.


This isn’t about offloading work that you don’t like or feel is too big a burden. Thinking of delegating in that way is actually the opposite of what will make this a productive exercise. Start instead by thinking about what you learned when you were new to your job. What tasks and responsibilities helped you to grow into your current capabilities? You see, those tasks and responsibilities were very valuable for you to learn… And they will be equally valuable to the person you pass them on to next.


This also isn’t about disempowering you. When you give work away for the purpose of helping others develop, you are developing, too. You will have an opportunity to learn how to oversee another’s work, how to train someone, and how to handoff tasks. In the long-term, you will free yourself up to take on new challenges that will boost your contribution to the team.


This is a win-win-win situation. Delegation for development is something that everyone in the workplace should be continually looking to do. Effective delegation develops people who are ultimately more fulfilled and productive. The people who do the delegating become more fulfilled and productive as they learn to count on other team members. This makes for more relaxing vacations and better understanding about roles, responsibilities and functions across the team.


People who have work delegated to them report higher levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction, too. Being challenged, not beyond our capacity but with a slight stretch involved, is very gratifying. It signals that we are trusted and that others see potential in us. It makes us feel connected to the team’s larger purpose and to the company, too.


These are the benefits realized by teams with active delegation at all levels.


  • People are continually developing new skills.
  • Higher levels of productivity are achieved, even when the team is short of key personnel.
  • The team operates with improved efficiency and effectiveness. This is true for individual contributors as well.
  • People feel more motivated and fulfilled in their work.


So what is delegating and how can you be sure you are doing it well?


Delegating is a pretty simple concept. The word, in its original meaning from Latin, meant “to send from.” When you delegate, you are sending work from you to someone else. It’s that simple and straightforward… But we make it much harder in the workplace than it has to be. To keep it simple and straightforward, there are eight essential steps that should be understood by both the delegator (person sending the work from) and the delegate (person receiving the work).


8 Essential Steps to Develop Others Through Effective Delegation


  1. The first step is to select the right delegate for an assignment. Who’s ready, interested in learning, reliable, and handling their current workload without concerns? That’s the right person. Don’t look for someone who already knows how to do it – that misses the point of development.


  2. When you delegate, it’s imperative that you be willing to grant the delegate the sufficient authority needed to work autonomously. You aren’t really delegating if you try to micromanage all the details. This requires some trust, which is why you were careful (in step 1) about who you selected.


  3. Set clear and specific goals and protocols. Since you won’t be micromanaging, be clear at the beginning of what’s generally expected for this work. Lay out all the details and deadlines in advance. It’s your job to help the new delegate be successful.


  4. Enable the delegate to achieve the goals. Don’t hold back. Share the workarounds and shortcuts you’ve discovered, as well as the potential stumbling blocks. Don’t set people up to fail because they will not trust you if you do.


  5. Be a resource to support the delegate. Although you aren’t micromanaging what you’ve handed off, remain interested and available. Check in occasionally and be sure the delegate knows you’re only a phone call away when questions arise.


  6. Assess the delegate’s performance. The first few times they do the work, you’ll be there, side by side with them. The next few times, back off but check the work as it’s completed. Give feedback about what is done well and what still needs a little more attention. Be sure you communicate upfront that you’ll be doing this so the delegate feels supported. 


  7. Give recognition for contributions and progress made. Let everyone know how well the delegate is doing. After all, if you are the teacher, this reflects well on you too.


  8. Maintain responsibility for outcomes. Initially, over a reasonable learning time frame, you are the one that others will rely on. Don’t shirk that responsibility or pretend that it’s the fault of the delegate when mistakes are made. If you’re following steps 1-7, you should not have any difficulties. But to show your commitment to team success, step 8 ensures you will be involved until the handoff is truly and successfully made.


Try a little delegating for the purpose of development, your development, too. The hardest part of this process is next - figuring out how you will spend your newfound time. 



{#/pub/images/DebCalvert.png}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions

Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 


Do you have a question for Deb?  Please visit our Workplace Communication Skills Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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Here are some related articles you may be interested in: 

Employee Engagement: Myths, Opportunities & The Role Of HR

7 Tips for Communicating with Clarity

How to Manage Team Conflict

Overcome Complacency in the Workplace

Don’t Forget to Delegate! 


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