In the spirit of teamwork and efficiency, managers want to delegate work. But many people don’t realize the complexities of giving someone new responsibilities. Doing so involves explanation, mentorship and, above all, trust.
This is why delegating is, unfortunately, much harder than people initially think. John Hunt of the London Business School notes that only 30% of managers believe they’re capable delegators. But only a third of those managers are actually proficient.
There are many reasons to delegate, which is why it’s difficult to know when to do so. Most people delegate simply because there’s too much on their plates. Others do it when they need help meeting a tight deadline. But you’d be surprised to learn these lesser-known reasons why you should delegate responsibilities.
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1. A team member is stressed
A team member could seem unhappy at work due to a variety of causes. Sometimes, it could be for reasons out of your control. Maybe they’re frustrated with bills or concerned about family. Of course, they could simply be stressed due to work overload. Either way, it’s important to communicate with them to see if you can help. You may be surprised to find that they’re stressed not because of overload, but because they need – not want – more responsibility.
This is a result of what’s called treadmill syndrome. People develop treadmill syndrome when work, and life in general, becomes too repetitive. Though they may be perfectly qualified to take on new roles, they find themselves continuously doing the same things. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Still, work is the same. As a result, they obsessively question their abilities and potentials for advancement.
The key to solving this problem, boosting happiness and productivity in the process, is to give them a new responsibility that you know they can handle. Review their abilities and credentials to choose an appropriate responsibility. Explain to them why it’s challenging and a breath of fresh air. Don’t lie about its importance – they’ll see through it. This will help them conquer treadmill syndrome, making them more positive and efficient.
2. You know too much about a project
When people handle a project for a long time, they innately learn everything there is to know about it. Rightly so, they become focused on its success. If you’ve experienced this, you know it can lead to a desire to do every little thing. Tasks, no matter how small, suddenly deserve your expert attention. But this feeling is partly why you shouldn’t worry about each task. Doing so will easily overwhelm you. Instead, your expertise is best suited for furthering the project’s purpose and strategy while guiding others.
That’s why it’s best to share some responsibility with others. You can devote yourself to important aspects of the project, while others can learn new, or sharpen old, skills. Getting your team members to help you also gives you chances to guide their professional growth. Remember, managers need to be teachers sometimes.
According to a 2013 study by management scholars Jeffrey Liker and Michael Ballé, nowhere is this more apparent than at the Toyota Motor Company in Japan. Rather than solve a project’s high-level problems on their own, managers actively involve teammates. They also delegate duties to those who can develop by working on them. By actively coaching team members, teaching is the core mission of every manager. Team members become capable workers and collaborators as a result. This is why delegating responsibilities and instructing with your expertise is advantageous for your team’s development. After all, you’re not going to be working forever. When that time comes, you don’t want your team to suffer from the bus factor.
3. You need to overcome your fear of failure
Even if they aren’t total experts on a given project, many managers believe they must play a role in every aspect of its development. This can stem from a fear of failure, according to management consultant Matthew Hind. They keep one eye on the project at all times, reviewing it before it reaches each new and minor stage in its lifecycle. To them, this is the only way it could possibly go well. Before they know it, they’re burned out.
Sound familiar? If this is how you act, you need to free up time and overcome your fear of failure. To do so, you can follow CEO coach Jim Schleckser’s 70% rule. This means delegating a project to someone who could do it at least 70% as well as you. You, in turn, invest no time in it. Forget about failure – it’s no longer something you can control. Instead, you can focus on responsibilities that demand your exclusive effort. Your products or services will be better as a result. As an added bonus, your team members can develop by taking on new, important roles.
4. A team member is bored because you hog all the fun
If you have fun at work, many people are probably envious of you. That may seem ideal at first, but it’s important your teammates aren’t jealous. If they are, it likely means you’re hogging all the enjoyable duties. They, on the other hand, could be stuck with menial tasks that are neither fulfilling nor challenging.
These sorts of tasks make people bored. When workers are bored, they devote too much attention to time. They solely focus on leaving at exactly 5 p.m. instead of actually working. Of course, this means they’re unproductive. A study by Right Management shows that disengaged team members are 50% less productive and 33% less profitable than engaged ones. They’re also 44% more likely to leave your company. In short, a bored team member doesn’t want to work with you.
The solution? Share some enjoyable and meaningful responsibilities, of course. Not only will bored workers become more productive, but they’ll gain pride in their work. Almost 90% of engaged team members believe customers think highly of their products or services, according to the study. That compares with 51% of disengaged team members.
These numbers mean it’s important to be happy at work. But it’s your responsibility to make sure your team members feel the same way. Delegate so people have a balance between responsibilities that are rewarding and ones that may be draining. In turn, you’ll be part of a better team.
Why do you delegate tasks and responsibilities? Do you have any tips for being an effective delegator? Tell us in the comments below!