Guilty of micromanagement? Learn how to delegate work effectively

By Robert Half on 25 June 2018

“If you want things done right, you have to do it yourself” - the adage only works if you have more than 24 hours a day.

As a manager, the buck stops with you. If a project bombs, you’re ultimately the one who’ll deal with the repercussions, whether it’s lost revenue or angry clients.

Given the weight of their responsibilities, some leaders avoid delegating in favour of micromanagement. But getting mired in minutiae comes with a cost.

Continually allowing yourself to get bogged down by non-essential tasks and routine projects through micromanaging staff prevents you from focusing on broader, bigger-picture business goals.

Follow the tips below on how to delegate work effectively, which will allow you to boost productivity, avoid burnout and empower your staff.

Delegate strategically

First and foremost, understand what “delegating” is and isn’t. Learning how to delegate work effectively is a management strategy that requires thoughtful consideration; it’s not constantly dumping undesirable work on the nearest direct report, or micromanaging your employees throughout the day.

To determine which assignments should be delegated and to whom, create a list of the tasks you typically tackle and break them down into three categories:

  • Tasks only you can address as a supervisor
  • Tasks a particular employee can likely handle
  • Tasks anyone on your team should be able to do

After identifying projects that can be assigned, think about the time, abilities and resources needed for success. Which person is most capable of fulfilling the requirements of each project? Some assignments call for an innovative, outside-the-box thinker, while other tasks require the ability to negotiate or work under pressure. Assess individual strengths and weaknesses and assign accordingly.

If you’re unsure of whose best for a given project, ask your team for input. You’ll likely find volunteers and receive creative suggestions for streamlining the work.

Spread the delegated duties to multiple people – not just the go-to superstar who always comes through in a pinch. You obviously want to select the most qualified person to assume each duty, but you want all of your employees to stretch their skills. Plus, you can’t afford to overburden a top performer who’s already tackling a heavy workload.

Offer crystal clear directions

Once you’ve identified the right employees to take on new tasks, clearly define your expectations. Covering the details upfront will save you significant time answering questions (or making corrections) later.

Everyone you delegate to should have a solid understanding of what needs to be done and how the work will be evaluated. In addition, let people know the priority level of their respective tasks, and explain if, when and how you’d like to receive status updates.

Minimise the micromanagement

For those with control issues or perfectionist tendencies, the most difficult aspect of delegation is overcoming the impulse to micromanage.

It’s understandable that initially you might feel uncomfortable loosening the reins. However, for delegation to truly work, you have to step back and let go. Simply put, you must delegate authority along with responsibility.

Allow employees to put their own stamp on projects by giving them the freedom to make decisions – and mistakes. The definition of delegate is to “entrust a task or responsibility to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself.”

The operative word is entrust. By demonstrating trust, you’ll help your staff fine-tune their problem-solving, project-management and decision-making skills.

Get comfortable with risk

It’s true that when you delegate there is the possibility that an employee won’t do an assignment the way you want. But unless you’re willing to take the risk, you’ll never maximise productivity.

Micromanagement is seldom a positive leadership trait. In many cases, micromanagement can go against what you're trying to achieve as a leader.

The bottom line is that learning how to delegate effectively is a win-win proposition. It allows your employees to expand their skills, while freeing you up to attend to more impactful, big-picture projects that will increase the value proposition of your firm or department.

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