Delegating: sounds like a great idea, right? But lots of people in positions of authority resist the temptation to pass tasks on to the people who work for them.
Some bosses feel guilty passing it on. Others are worried that the work won’t be completed to their own high standards. When you work with a remote digital team, it can be difficult to judge how a colleague will respond to having extra work passed along. And unless communication is truly first-rate, you may not even be sure whether it’s in their skillset.
But delegating is a skill in itself, and one that bosses need to conquer if they are to make the most of their business’s potential. In fact, it has been shown that delegating properly can help boost a company’s revenue by around 30%. Yet only around 15% of bosses believe they delegate as much as they should.
The boss or senior members of the team may have more valuable things to spend their time on than what they’re doing. In a remote creative team, for example, those higher up in the business may be the most experienced and skilled at cooking up creative ideas – and will be better off concentrating on ideation than on the more technical creative work of image manipulation, text generation etc.
The boss likely has a deeper, more pertinent professional network for identifying new clients and possibilities. Their time and effort is more appropriately spent doing so.
And they of course have an element of the day-to-day running of the business to take care of – although the more of this they can delegate, the better.
For example, one important aspect of management that is a frequent casualty of a failure to delegate is decision-making. As the boss (or someone in a position of responsibility) you will make dozens, if not hundreds of decisions each day. Some are minor, some are major, but all take their toll on your ability to make further decisions. This is called decision fatigue.
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One shocking example of it in action was demonstrated in a study that looked at the parole decisions made by American judges. The most influential factor in the decisions the judges made was not related directly to the crimes, backgrounds, or appeals of respective individuals whose lives they were affecting. The most influential factor was the time of day the case was heard. Judges were far less likely to award parole late in the afternoon after a day of making decisions about other cases.
In short, delegating some decision-making tasks will free up your mental space and energy to make better decisions.
So how can you learn to be a better delegator?
Tools to improve at delegatingLearning to delegate requires you to look in two different directions: outward, towards the team you will delegate to, and inwards, at your own ways of thinking and working. Naturally, the two perspectives overlap somewhat.
You might hesitate to delegate a task because you’re afraid (or know for a fact) that your colleagues can’t handle it; that it is beyond their know-how. Or you might just think that they won’t do it as well as you would. This attitude is bound up in three important issues.
First, to some extent, this superiority complex requires you to ‘get over yourself.’ Did you know that 60% of us rate our abilities higher than our peers do? This is known as self-enhancement bias. It is often a form of narcissism to simply believe that you’ll do a better job at something than your colleague would. Try to be objective: know your team’s strengths and never assume that you will be better at a given task just because you’re the boss.
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The second issue hidden in this assumption is that ‘better’ is always desirable. Frequently in the world of digital media, ‘more original,’ ‘more appropriate,’ or plain ‘more timely’ will deliver more impressive results than work that is over-familiar or misses the moment because you’re too overworked to get it out while the issue is hot.
And thirdly, if your team genuinely isn’t up to the task of taking work off your busy hands, you’re doing something wrong as a manager. It is your responsibility to build, maintain, and develop a crew that can spread and handle the company’s workload. And if that balance isn’t there, you’ll probably end up with a workforce that is any combination of overworked, undervalued, unfulfilled, and unhappy.
It’s a massive missed opportunity. Training your team and delivering development opportunities, investing money and trust in your crew, paying them well for additional responsibilities, are all ways to build a stronger, more effective business – and a crew to whom you can delegate. This means higher quality work and boosted revenue all around.
StrategizingOnce you’ve identified the possibility to delegate more work – either because you’ve learned to trust your colleagues or you’ve delivered the training they require – it is time to strategize. Delegating may sound like an off-the-cuff solution, but only when it becomes systematic can you truly utilize its potential.
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Start by thinking about how and when you would like to delegate: what kind of tasks, with what frequency, and with what level of notice. Get your team together to discuss your ideas and to distribute responsibility, so that your new approach to delegating doesn’t catch them off-guard. Letting them know that you will delegate more also commits you to doing so, and makes you more likely to succeed.
They may have their own suggestions or concerns about this shift in work patterns. When you speak to your colleague’s own professional development hopes and dreams, you might identify new areas of potential for your business. Conversely, if off-loading work onto them is going to drastically change their work day without adequate compensation, you could soon end with a very unhappy workforce.
Continue to meet once the strategy is up and running. A shift in work patterns will often have unpredictable results. Check in each week to ensure the crew are still comfortable with the amount and the nature of work that you are requesting of them. Delegating work at short notice can also cause tensions, although it is often necessary in the fast-paced world of digital media. Make sure that your reduced workload isn’t leading to increased stress elsewhere in the company.
Getting startedWith a strategy in place and everybody on the same page, all that is left is for you to remember to delegate! Even with all this preparation, it can be difficult to actually pull the trigger and do so. A good trick is to form a habit of delegation. Every time a new task comes up, ask yourself if it is possible to delegate it. If it’s not possible to delegate it, make a note to figure out why – so you can rectify the situation with further training or recruitment if possible.
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And don’t forget to look out for alternatives to delegating. A task shared is a task halved – and benefits from the unique chemistry of two people working together. It also gives you a chance to pass on your practical knowledge, and maybe pick up a thing or two from your colleague, too!
For more ideas on how to start delegating more at work, take a look at this new visual guide from Headway Capital.
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