Even in large, successful companies, the majority of projects fail. According to Gallup, just 2.5% of organizations meet 100% of their objectives. This problem is especially prevalent in the IT sector. In a study published by the Harvard Business Review, around 1 in 6 projects overran by approximately seventy per cent.
Fortunately, project management can be learned. In this guide, we’ll look at how you can develop a key skill: delegation.
Specifically, as a project manager, you need to understand how to assign tasks to other people in a way that makes the best possible use of their time. Let’s look at a few ways you can refine your delegation skills.
1. Swallow Your Pride
Are you hesitant to let others take on tasks? Too many managers assume that they are the best person for the job, and attempt to take on work that could be left to someone else. Underpinning this tendency is a lack of trust; if you secretly (or not so secretly) believe that you alone can complete a task, you will be reluctant to delegate it.
The solution may not be easy, but it’s simple – either accept that another team member can do the task, even if it isn’t perfect, or tackle any skill gaps in the people you supervise.
Remember, part of your job role as a manager is to get the best from the people under your supervision. Delegating tasks is an effective means of developing team members, pushing them to use their existing skills and pick up new knowledge.
You should also see delegation as an excellent exercise in building a cohesive team. when you share out tasks that make up a big project, you are providing employees with the opportunity to work together and form a sense of camaraderie.
It’s also a chance to further your own career. If you are a middle manager, senior management will be paying close attention to your delegation skills. You are unlikely to fulfill your potential as a manager if you insist on assuming complete responsibility for a project.
2. Write Down The Task, The Objective, The Parameters, And The Deadline
You can’t delegate a job unless you know precisely what needs to be done, how it will be done, and when it needs to be completed. You also need to consider accountability and instructions. Will you need to provide extensive guidance, or will the team member be given room to act on their own initiative?
Keep your deadlines realistic. Although some people thrive on tight deadlines, most find them stressful. Overloading employees with work carries a risk of exhaustion or even burnout.
When finalizing these details, check in with the person involved. Do they think they are capable of completing the task? If not, work with them to expand their skill set as necessary, or choose another person if you are short on time.
Always keep good records. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that you’ll remember how you divided up tasks; within a few days you’ll probably forget, especially if you are managing a large team. Documenting your delegation decisions, including the reasoning behind them, will also help you learn from experience.
Your organization’s senior management team may also want to know how you divided up tasks, so maintaining a paper trail could be useful when it comes to your next performance review or project debriefing.
3. Help Team Members Understand Why Working On The Task Will Benefit Them
Workers who aren’t sure how their efforts will affect the ultimate outcome of the project are likely to be disengaged. Be sure they know how the project fits into the broader objectives of your team, department, and organization as a whole.
To engage them further, talk about the personal rewards they will enjoy when the project is finished. For example, will they be in line for a bonus, or an opportunity to work on exciting tasks in the future? If they far exceed expectations, would they be in line for a promotion? Perhaps the task is intrinsically interested in itself, even if they can’t see it yet.
4. If Possible, Grant People The Flexibility To Complete A Piece Of Work In A Way That Suits Them
Micromanaging team members is exhausting and often fosters resentment. Check in with your team on a regular basis – approximately once or twice per week – but don’t take up their time by demanding lengthy status updates.
Trust that they know themselves well enough to figure out a suitable work pattern. If they start falling behind, you can work together to get them back on track. Focus on the final result, rather than the process behind it.
5. Make Sure You Are Ready And Willing To Offer Help When Necessary
Encourage all team members to approach you when they hit a stumbling block. The sooner you can address problems, the better. Your team look to you for guidance and support; don’t make yourself scarce. You can pre-empt confusion and save a lot of time by creating in-depth task descriptions that everyone on the team can understand.
“If you are working with people of various backgrounds, skill levels, and even English language proficiency, it’s doubly important that your descriptions are simple,” says the CEO of PickWriters. “If you are working with an international team, it may be best to translate task descriptions in some cases.”
6. Give Prompt Praise And Recognition
Don’t take your team for granted. When they hit a major milestone, praise their efforts. It costs nothing and can make all the difference in keeping them motivated. If you have to give constructive criticism, be sure to deliver it alongside positive recognition.
7. If Someone Is Falling Behind With Their Work, Give Them The Benefit Of The Doubt
The majority of employees are not intrinsically lazy or incompetent. When a member of your team makes a mistake, do not assume that they are shirking their duties or wasting time. In most cases, they just require guidance to help them understand what is expected of them.
They might also feel overwhelmed by their workload. Take their concerns seriously; even if you would personally find their duties manageable, remember that everyone is different. Work with them to set reasonable goals that align with their abilities.
8. Use A Comprehensive Task And Project Management Tool With A Simple Interface
Choose an easy to use, comprehensive tool that allows your team to track their progress, post status reports, and reach out to you with any problems or questions. Management tools allow you to see, at a glance, who is assigned to which task, and the deadline for each. In just a few clicks, you can delegate tasks to a team member.
A good project management tool will also incorporate task templates, making it easy to specify precisely what you need from every team member. You should also be able to set up reminders for recurring tasks.
9. Understand When You Should Not Delegate A Task
It isn’t always appropriate to delegate a task. If the task is crucial to long-term success – for instance, recruiting a new team member – you should address it yourself. If it is a crucial task and no one on the team possesses the right mix of skills to complete it on time, it’s best to do it alone.
Bear in mind that a team member might be able to finish the work to a high standard but, if they are unfamiliar with the work involved, they will require extra time to acquire the relevant background knowledge.
Consider the consequences of failure. If they would be catastrophic, the most sensible course of action is to carry out the work yourself. Although your delegates are responsible for their assigned tasks, you are the one who will ultimately be held accountable for the project’s success or failure.
10. Encourage Team Members To Provide Their Own Solutions
If a delegate comes up against a challenge, don’t let them pass their work back to you on the basis that it is too difficult. Instead, ask them to think about how they might solve the problem, and report back to you with potential solutions. Your team need to learn that you will not always bail them out the moment they hit a snag.
Letting employees solve their own problems will increase their confidence, which in turn will make them more effective and reliable team members. It’s a virtuous cycle – encouraging them to take the initiative will aid in their development, which equips them with new skills, which in turn means they are less likely to come up against problems in the first place.
Mastering And Practicing Delegation
When done well, delegation can accelerate a project, save you time, and promote personal and professional growth in every member of your team.
If you are used to assuming sole responsibility for every single task, it can be hard to trust others to get the work done on time. However, if you have a competent team who are willing to try their best, you’ll be delighted by the results.
Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she had found herself as a freelance writer. She observes with a special interest how the latest achievements in media and technology help to grow readership and revenue and shares her opinion. You can find her on Facebook.