How to Delegate Tasks Better and Get Things Done

written by Dan Silvestre
Productivity, Time Management

how to delegate tasks better

Do you know a skill that separates an average manager from a superstar manager? Knowing how to delegate tasks better.

As a manager, you’ve got a lot of things on your plate. You’ve got clients to juggle, a team to run, and multiple projects to balance. Trying to do everything yourself is a recipe for burnout.

And look:

Maybe you’ve tried delegating tasks before and got burned.

You found out later the result was far from ideal. Or worse, it wasn’t even close to completion. Maybe you took this personally. Or it took you longer to delegate a task than to do it yourself.

And so you thought to yourself: “If I want something done right, I’ll have to do it myself!”

And abandoned the idea of delegating tasks for a while.

I get it. I’ve been there.

And I see it every week coaching managers.

When you don’t know how to delegate tasks, delegation becomes yet another burden. It’s one more item on your to-do list, rather than freeing up your time.

Now, here’s the good news:

When you know how to delegate tasks better to your team, the results are nothing short of magical.

When you delegate tasks better, you:

  • Empower your team and it becomes more efficient and effective
  • Build a stronger and more skilled team
  • Improve your team’s culture and satisfaction
  • Reduce your workload while still ensuring the work gets done

Through my work with hundreds of managers, I’ve developed a simple framework to delegate tasks better.

But first, you need to decide what tasks to delegate.

Decide which tasks to delegate

how to delegate tasks better the 6 ts framework

As a manager, you can’t delegate everything. But you can delegate a lot more than you think.

I love Jenny Blake’s six T’s framework (from this Harvard Business Review article) to decide which tasks to delegate:

  • Tiny. Tasks that are so small they seem inconsequential to tackle but they add up. For example, registering for a conference or event, adding it to your calendar, and booking the hotel and flight
  • Tedious. Straightforward and simple tasks that can (and should) be handled by your team members. For example, data entry or updating the KPIs in your presentation deck
  • Time-Consuming. Important and perhaps complex tasks. You can step in when the task is 80% complete and give approval, oversight and/or direction on the next steps
  • Teachable. Tasks that can be detailed in steps and passed along, with you still providing quality checks and final approval. For example, teaching one of your direct reports how to draft the presentation deck for the monthly all-hands meeting, or how to be the one to deliver those updates to the team
  • Terrible At. Tasks that do not play to your strengths or fall on an area where you feel unequipped. You take far longer than people skilled in this area, and still produce a subpar result. For example, the visual design of a presentation. Or hiring a professional designer for an upcoming presentation outside of your organization
  • Time Sensitive. Tasks that are time-sensitive but compete with other priorities. You delegate important and time-sensitive tasks so that they can be done in parallel with your other project-based deadlines. For example, calling an airline to change seat assignments for the following day while you are in all-day meetings

The 6 T’s framework is a great way to think about which things to let go of and delegate.

Here’s how to use it:

Take a few minutes to write down every task you need to do. To help your brainstorming process, think about your major categories and activities.

After you have a big, healthy list, go through it and ask yourself:

Which tasks fall into one of the six t’s?

What can I delegate or outsource?

This list becomes your starting point of what to delegate.

Then, it’s time to actually start delegating tasks better.

How to delegate tasks better

To delegate tasks better, you need to communicate 4 main elements:

  1. Level of delegation
  2. The task
  3. The goal
  4. Deadline

how to delegate tasks better

The best way to communicate these elements is to schedule a meeting with your team member. It’s always best when you can explain the task verbally.

If that’s not possible, do a quick screen recording using Loom where you explain these 4 things.

For most of the tasks you delegate, you can cover the 4 steps in 5 minutes or less.

Here’s what you need to cover:

Start by defining the level of delegation. This sets the expectation for both parties of the delegated task.

Here are the 5 levels in a nutshell:

  1. Do as I say. This is the “execute” level. At this level you give instructions
  2. Research and report back. Delegate the time-consuming research. You’ll only need to decide
  3. Research and make a recommendation. Your team member should be able to give a recommendation on what he/she believes to be the best option
  4. Decide and inform. “Make the best decision you can, based on your research, but keep me updated at all times”
  5. Act independently. Total freedom. Best for responsibilities that are not very important or that you are not best suited for

Then, provide clear and concise instructions. What needs to be done? For the first level of delegation, show on your screen exactly how to do the task.

For the remaining levels of delegation, focus on the goal of the task. What are you trying to achieve? How does this task relate to the goals of your team and organization?

Provide them with the necessary resources to successfully complete the task. Think not only of tools but also of training or support.

Then, set a deadline and check-in points if necessary. Tie this back to the goal: why is it important to get the task done by your deadline?

Finally, remind your team member that you’re available for any questions that may come up during the task’s completion.

Let them know that delegation is a learning process for both of you.

Check in with your team member

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” — Theodore Roosevelt

You’ve delegated your task. But your job is only halfway done. There’s one last step to make sure the delegation is successful.

After delegating you need to follow up with the team member. Do regular check-ins, particularly in the early stages. This helps establish trust between you.

But a word of warning:

Refrain from micro-managing. This is especially important when things are not going well.

Don’t take over the task or try to tell them exactly what to do. You’re there to provide them with coaching or training support.

Assess how they’re progressing:

  • How is the project going?
  • Do you have any questions about it or roadblocks?
  • Is there anything unclear to you?

At every checkpoint with the team member, give them feedback. Understand that mistakes are inevitable so learn to provide constructive feedback.

Tell them what is going well and areas where they need to improve or do things differently. Allow for mistakes, be patient, and don’t rush in to judge the team member if they make mistakes.

See mistakes as a way for the team member to learn so use good feedback to guide them onto the right path. You should aim to solve any problems with them instead of for them.

The art of delegating tasks better

Think of delegation as how you scale your impact through the work of other people.

Delegating tasks better takes time and practice. Just like any skill, you’ll get better with time.

Don’t get frustrated when things don’t go well. Accept that some delegated tasks will fail. Treat it as a learning exercise.

It’s easy to put the blame on the other person when delegation fails.

But great managers instead try to understand how they can improve:

  • What did I do wrong?
  • Was I not clear on my explanation?
  • Did I fail to convey the goal of this task?
  • How can I improve my delegation process?

Write down your answers and reflect on how you can improve. You can do this during your ​GTD weekly review.

Use this feedback loop to strengthen your delegation skills.

And with time, you’ll get better.

And maybe – just maybe – you’ll begin to love delegating tasks…

Tags:: Delegation

Thanks for reading!

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