Just as “it takes money to make money,” it also takes time to save time. There are a number of reasons that managers shy away from delegation, but one of the biggest is that effective delegation takes a significant up-front investment of time and effort. It is, however, an investment that really pays off in the long run. So for managers resolved to make the most of their time in 2018, here are five steps to effective, time-saving delegation.
1. Know your role
Before delegating anything, it’s important to carefully reflect on your role in the organization. Many managers who feel overwhelmed at work have fallen into the trap of loading their plate with tasks that make them feel essential to the company, but that could easily be accomplished by someone else with a little additional training. As a manager, is your role to run around putting out fires and main the status quo, or is your real responsibility to grow the business, increase customer satisfaction, and improve employee productivity? Consider how much of your time each day is spent actually working toward those larger goals.
It’s also useful to consider Pareto's Principle, also known as “The 80-20 Rule.” This rule states 20 percent of invested input is responsible for 80 percent of the results. To apply this rule to delegation, identify the activities or time investments that generate the largest outcomes – building customer relationships, employee training, networking and collaboration, etc – and then prioritize those “20 percent” activities. Consider delegating tasks that take time away from these activities or that are not directly related to your big picture job role and responsibilities.
2. Identify employee strengths and potential
Once tasks and activities have been selected for delegation, it’s important to identify the right person for the job. An easy mistake is to simply delegate to the employee with the lightest workload. However, it’s far better to consider which employee has the right skills or knowledge for the task, and which employee will benefit most from the experience. Taking the time to really know your employees’ talents and aptitudes before delegating has the double benefit of increasing success rates on the task and providing your team opportunities for growth and development.
3. Communicate clear task outcomes and parameters
With the “who” and “what” of delegation identified, it’s time to focus on the “how.” Employees need transparent leadership to successfully take on new responsibilities. The best way to achieve this is through clear communication on task outcomes and parameters while keeping well clear of micromanagement. Communicate the purpose of the task, the desired result, and a few essential parameters or guidelines for the work. Give employees room to draw on their own ingenuity for actual implementation of the task – this will increase trust between management and employees, and may even lead to new, better ways of working.
4. Establish deadlines and a follow-up schedule
In addition to knowing “how” a delegated task is to be completed, employees also need a clearly defined “when.” However, it’s important that managers avoid the mistake of simply setting one final deadline and then washing their hands of the whole task. Instead, add specific milestones and make follow-ups more about offering support than pointing out shortcomings. There is where modern time tracking and employee scheduling apps can be a huge time saver. Online and mobile schedules with deadline reminders go a long way toward keeping delegation follow-ups from getting lost in the shuffle. And to make the most of these follow-ups, Forbes contributor Martin Zwilling suggests thinking back to when you were new and learning: find ways to make progress checks into teachable moments that improve the overall capacity of your team.
The final step is to go back and repeat the process. As you clear your plate of busywork and make room for those most important “20 percent” activities, be sure to regularly re-evaluate your role and how well your day-to-day activities support your most important job responsibilities. Don’t ignore the mundane, but take the time to delegate it so that you’re not overwhelmed by sheer busyness. This will lead to a continuing cycle of growth, development, and improvement for you, your employees, and the business as a whole.