Updated: Sep 1
Taking a break from work is hard for a lot of people. Whether you worry about how others perceive you, or you feel you have too much going on -- deadlines, projects, the pile-up in your inbox -- many people choose to plow on. With workplace burnout at an all-time high, however, now may be exactly the time you need a break, and taking it doesn't have to set you back. In fact, if you can master the art of delegation, not only will you feel better about taking that long-delayed vacation, you will also be in a better position to accelerate your career.
For many leaders I work with, delegation is a tough nut to crack. Letting go can be hard when you feel personally judged on your work and believe no one else can do it as well. (Not true, get over it.) It is also hard if you equate delegating with dumping your work on others. I'd like to offer you this mindset shift: delegating is a gift to the people you delegate to if you do it right.
Delegating is a great motivator because it empowers others in your organization to make the most of their skills while also enabling you to let go of some responsibilities that are just as well handled (if differently,) by someone else. Delegating to members of your team gives them an opportunity to shine, to stretch, and to be noticed.
Knowing How to Delegate
Because delegating doesn't always come naturally to a leader, here are some strategies to help you do it successfully.
Learn the strengths of your employees. Every employee has specific skills and talents that make them better suited to certain challenges. Your staff might even have goals that they want to accomplish, and delegating tasks to them could help them to achieve those targets. For instance, if your employee wants to develop their leadership skills, and they have great communication skills, you could have them sub for you at meetings where you would be required to present.
Great delegation starts with knowing your employees and understanding how to leverage them advantageously.
Define desired outcomes. The projects you hand elsewhere should come with plenty of context and tie into the goals of your organization. You’ll need to be really clear about the objectives you want to accomplish in order to see results. Know exactly what you want your employees to achieve before you assign them any task and ensure that they’re clear on those goals too.
Laying out clear expectations can save you a lot of time and money on mistakes.
Provide the right resources. If the person you’re delegating your work to needs help to get the task done, ensure that they get it. Sometimes, your employees will require specific training, authority, and resources to get through the assigned project. Remove any red tape or hurdles in advance.
Giving your employees all the resources that they need initially also means that you can resist the urge to check in on vacation. Trust that the employee has everything they need to be successful in their task. Then, step back until you get back.
Establish channels of communication. It’s important to have a system in place that encourages positive input and feedback when your team members have questions. If you want to truly break away from the office, think about a leader or peer to whom your employee can turn if they have questions or run into roadblocks. Upon your return, set up a regular cadence of communication with which you both feel comfortable. It will save you a lot of time and effort.
Allow for failure and reward success. Finally, avoid delegating with the assumption that your team members are going to fail. Be confident in their skills and abilities, while keeping in mind that things might not go exactly according to plan.
Recognize mistakes and use them as an opportunity to give useful feedback for the future. You might even learn that you need to give better briefs or be clearer about your requests when you’re sharing information with staff.
When delegation goes well and your employees deliver positive results, recognize it. Pay attention to the effort exerted by your team members and acknowledge their results with awards and praise.
So go on, take that vacation and give someone else the opportunity to shine. Who knows? You may find that you were actually spending a lot of time on things that can be done at least as well by others, and by delegating those responsibilities, you can focus on the work for which you are best suited, that excites you, but that you just haven't had time for.