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5 Steps for Delegating Work More Efficiently

Relying more on your team can help you all perform at your best. By Hitendra R. Patil | Digital Exclusive

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From catering to the demands of bosses to answering questions from colleagues, work can feel overwhelming sometimes. Add in an overflowing inbox and a smartphone that never leaves your side, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout, even for the most dedicated of team members. Harnessing the power of delegation, however, can help mitigate some of the stress and empower teams to perform at their best.

Delegation is a critical skill, yet many executives still struggle to share their workload with their colleagues. In fact, many never realize when they hoard work. Whether you’re a perfectionist who feels it’s easier and less risky to do everything yourself, or worry that passing on work will detract from your own importance, it’s imperative that you take the time to self-reflect and identify your delegation opportunities. 

Once you’ve recognized what’s standing in your way, the next step is to adjust your behavior.

Here are five concrete steps you as a professional can take to effectively delegate work to your team:

1.      Identify strengths and decentralize work

It may seem more efficient to hold on to all your workload and responsibilities rather than delegate—both professional and otherwise. However, with a more whole-team and inclusive approach, you may be surprised how easy it can be to share the endless workload with your colleagues.

Are you working on a complicated spreadsheet? Drafting a wordy report? Identify the people on your team who have relevant experience, expertise, and talents to do the job well and share in the workload. Make sure that they have adequate resources, such as access to the necessary software or shared folder on the network, to complete their newly assigned tasks. 

2.      Articulate your vision

Unfortunately, this is often the most ignored step in the delegation process. While most employees understand their own responsibilities and processes very well, it’s much more difficult to explain them to someone else. According to an employee engagement study, HR leaders said poor management and an unclear understanding of the connection between an employee’s role and corporate strategy can lead to burnout. 

When assigning tasks or breaking up the workload among different people, use objective statements to explain the work and clarify how it will be measured or reviewed to ensure your colleagues understand their responsibilities fully. Additionally, direct examples and templates can point your coworkers in the right direction while ensuring the completed project is uniform and accurate. 

3.      Confirm comprehension

Just because you articulated your vision doesn’t necessarily mean your colleague understands the task or protocol fully. This could potentially lead to miscommunication and mistakes in the work, and larger problems later down the road. 

When delegating, specifically ask the newly responsible person to tell you what he or she understood. Check in often over the course of the project or projects—whether that be after days, weeks or months. You will be surprised how your communications may have been unclear to someone new.

4.      Maintain reporting authority

Often, delegating responsibility doesn’t mean delegating the accountability. While you may have multiple people working with you or under you to complete a task, there’s a great chance that you’ll remain the sole person accountable for the project’s success.

Have a clear chain-of-command set in place with your colleagues. Be sure every member of your team understands who reports to whom, who reviews work, and who presents the work to clients in order to minimize confusion and keep the lines of communication clear. 

5.      Mitigate missteps

Despite all of this, there may be instances of miscommunication or where the project at hand will go wrong or get delayed. Identify the potential bottlenecks and timelines to ensure mistakes or missteps are addressed as quickly as possible to make sure your clients or customers are not impacted by any internal team issues.

Whether you're a team leader, an entrepreneur, or in some similar position of authority, delegation is going to be a major key to maximizing your productivity and keeping yourself grounded and organized during tight deadlines or large workloads. Most successful businesses grow by leveraging capabilities of all employees; not by overworking their expert, talented people. Pay attention to the results your team garners, learn from your mistakes and be patient with yourself while you practice delegation.


Hitendra R. Patil is AccountantsWorld’s director of practice development.