The Art of Delegation – Learning how to successfully delegate is a key skill for any senior leader or manager – and yet, issues around delegating still challenge all businesses, especially SMEs.

Sally White, one of two Directors of SYLO Beyond HR has shared her unique insight into this topic.

In this blog, we provide practical tips & advice for HR teams & all leaders or managers struggling to delegate effectively.

Why do leaders struggle with delegation?

People can struggle with delegation for various reasons. We wanted to dig deeper into the topic and asked Sally to share her professional HR expertise.

  • The desire to control everything

Fear can result from managers worrying about lack of control, of their work or their teams. Perhaps they believe or worry that if they delegate a task, no one will complete the work to a high enough standard, like they will. This may come from a lack of trust in team members or lack of knowledge of their abilities. Also, some leaders won’t want to let go of control for emotive reasons; perhaps they’ve been doing the job a long time, or it’s their business, for example.

  • Time

Some leaders/managers may have the belief that it’s quicker to complete the task themselves, to save taking the time to teach an employee how to complete it to their standard.

Even though investing time in training might be more time-consuming in the short-term, this will support you and your team in the long-term. Employees build their skills and abilities knowing how to develop the business in the long term, allowing leaders and managers’ time  to focus on other business needs and priorities.

  • Culture

Sally advises that delegation can often be a cultural issue within an organisation.

We work with our clients to create leaders and managers of value-led organisations. Their people feel more empowered, and this helps to ensure a more natural delegation of tasks and jobs. Effective delegation can also help create the right culture ensuring people want to stay within the organisation.   It’s a candidate-driven market currently and creating a culture where the team can feel integral to the operation of the organisation will allow a greater sense of pride and passion in their work.

  • Simply not knowing how

Some leaders/manages may desperately want to delegate and know they need to – but are unsure of how to go about it. Missing this crucial leadership lesson can lead to all sorts of problems – such as a lack of team efficiency, missing deadlines due to unrealistic workloads and even leadership burnout.

Sally advises that some leaders/managers may not have the necessary skills required to delegate, i.e., how to communicate and prioritise effectively through an efficient time management system. These are vital skills for everyone within an organisation, especially leaders and managers.

Consider whether communication and time management training are necessary for your organisation.

 6 steps to successful delegation

  1. Train your middle managers

Focusing on middle-manager training, as well as the leadership team will help to ensure organisational alignment where everyone is on the same page, rather than just those at the top. Creating roles and an organisational structure where people can grow requires that delegation is acceptable and something that the company encourages, from the very top through to the most junior employee.

  1. Coaching

Coaching can really benefit leaders or managers who experience issues and fear around lack of control by helping them to work through the issues and assess what barriers are in place to stop them implementing change.

SYLO trainers can help leader/managers who struggle with delegation through workshops or training courses highlighting the importance of delegation and how it helps with managing heavy workloads. Read our Learning and Development Case Study here.

  1. Refine communication

We must stress the importance of communication skills in delegating. Successful delegation requires tasks to be communicated clearly, along with deadlines and expectations. Leaders/managers need to check the employee fully understands the task and/or role they are being asked to complete and are also able to help with any questions they might have.

And it works both ways too – Sally advocates the use of employee engagement surveys to gauge whether employees understand what is expected of them in their roles.

  1. Encourage autonomy

If an employee gets stuck with a delegated task, leaders/managers should resist the urge to pick up the task themselves. This is where they need to coach the employee and help them through the challenges.

This is a crucial part of the process and builds confidence for both the leader and the employee, who will both feel a sense of achievement once the task is completed.

  1. Manage expectations

Leaders and managers are unlikely to receive perfect results the first time they delegate a task to an employee. Leave room for trial and error – be confident (and patient!) that things will improve with time, as everyone adjusts to the new process.

  1. Leadership development

We believe achieving true delegation success ties back into leadership development and the overall culture of the organisation.

Post-pandemic, SME businesses have all struggled to some extent with either growth or change. Approaching issues around delegation may help unblock underlying challenges around future growth, work overload and productivity.

If leaders and owners have the right training and approach to  delegation, this will then help drive a productive, supportive which filters down from the top. Having clear values, vision and mission as a business will also help set the tone foundation for a people-first culture.

The benefits of successful delegation

Time, to think and act! Leaders and managers gain time back in their working day by delegating tasks and therefore creating valuable headspace to focus on business growth and plans.

Delegating also improves team members’ confidence, making teams more efficient overall. Successfully completing new and different tasks builds autonomy and helps with the career development of employees who can show that they can take on extra work and expand their skillsets.

Sally offers some final thoughts around delegation;

“Delegation isn’t dumping work on people; it’s giving them the opportunity to shine.”

Find out more about how SYLO Beyond HR can help your business (especially with support on learning & development) via our website or by emailing us.