Tips for delegating tasks that every manager needs

The best way to get it all done is to let someone else do some of it. Here’s how.

Tips for delegating tasks that every manager needs

Effective delegation is a skill you must master.

Into every manager’s life, some delegating must fall. Otherwise, you’ll discover that you’re the one doing everything—and that’s a lose-lose situation. Effective delegation is a skill you must master if you aim to do your job well and keep your sanity in tact.

“Delegation builds trust, it builds credibility within your team, and it reduces stress from the manager's workload,” says Tammy Perkins, chief people officer for Pacific Market International. “It creates unnecessary bottlenecks to have the manager be the person who understands everything on the team and how to do everything. If you can relinquish some of those areas and empower the team to take on different projects, it will have a positive impact.”

Try these strategies for passing the buck—in a good way.

Learn to let go

Often the biggest roadblock to effective delegation is a manager’s inability to let someone else do something they think they could do themselves. “Be willing to acknowledge that you may have some issues with delegating that could be a challenge for you,” says Roy Cohen, a career counselor and executive coach in New York City.

Delegating tasks can help your team work more efficiently and create opportunities for them to develop and stretch their skills while gaining more visibility in the company. “I’ve leveraged delegation to really help challenge some of my superstars,” Perkins says.

That said, make sure you’re not passing things on because you simply don’t want to do them yourself. “Sometimes our employees don’t see how [a task] is going to benefit them other than that they’re going to be working harder,” Cohen says. “They think the boss is just dumping stuff on them.” Be thoughtful about what you hand down the chain.

Be clear

What is it you’re asking your employees to do? “Be really clear about what you’re delegating,” says Cynthia Ackrill, a leadership and stress expert based outside of Washington, D.C. “A lot of times, the reason we don’t delegate is because we’re confused about what really needs to be done, or we haven’t thought it out well.”

Be comprehensive in your communication of what’s being delegated, and make sure that person understands your expectations and deadlines.

Effective delegation is a way to empower your team, so they should also understand why they’re doing it. “You want to motivate the person,” Ackrill says. “You want to appeal to their mastery. They should feel like they’ve got what they need to do this on their own, and that they’re doing it for a purpose.”

Think ahead

One of the fears in delegating tasks is that someone else won't be able to negotiate all the twists and turns that the task may take. “In our hearts, we’re kind of control freaks,” Ackrill says.

Now is the time to think about all the potential bumps that could derail the task you’re assigning and prepare your worker to handle them—or to come to you if they run into problems. “Think about all the spooky monsters that could be under the bed that are probably making you procrastinate on getting this project done,” Ackrill says. “Say, ‘If the shipping department says no, let’s talk it out.’”

Make sure workers can handle the job

A quick way to create anxiety is to give a task to someone who doesn’t have resources to complete it. Equip your team with all the tools and information they’re going to need to complete the task you’re giving them. If they need to reference a report, make sure they can access it.

Furthermore, choose someone who has the necessary skillset. “It creates stress for an employee when their manager asks them to take on an assignment that’s not in their wheelhouse, and it’s not something they have experience doing,” Perkins says.

Really think about how you can pass along some skills and opportunities that will help your team grow and develop while also helping you recognize the right person for the job. “You can do that through coaching, one-on-ones, and understanding some of the strengths of your team,” Perkins says. “That way, you can help support and track the assignment and leverage it as an opportunity to inspire other people.”

They also must have the authority to fully manage the job. If completing the assignment requires them to ask someone to perform for them, be sure that you've given them the power to do that. “When you delegate somebody, you’re giving them full authority to handle it—you’re not holding their hands behind their back while they do it,” Ackrill says.

Ask questions

You’re the boss, and employees may be too intimidated to ask for clarity if they don’t understand something. Give them an opening.

“Ask, ‘Do you see any problems with this?’” Ackrill says. “‘Do you have any questions? Anything not clear?’”

It’s also crucial to ask if they have the bandwidth. This is important, because “our culture is allergic to saying ‘no,’” Ackrill says. “When we recognize that, and we say, ‘Do you have the bandwidth to take this on right now?’ you’re getting the person to reflect and tell you if they’re going to be able to do a good job for you or not.”

Similarly, it’s essential to rotate assignments. “I recently had a situation where one person on the team took on everything, because the manager continued to give tasks to one employee,” Perkins says. “Find out what the strengths are of the people around you, and balance opportunities for visibility where individuals can contribute.”

Take next steps

As a manager, you’ve put together a strong team and passed along your knowledge and skills. You trust them to get the job done well. What comes next? Often, the best option is to leave the job in your team’s hands and find new opportunities. Ready for your next move? Join Monster today for free. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you.