Management Essentials: Delegating Responsibilities

Now that you have the attention of the employees, you need to learn how to best choose the tasks they shall complete during a day, a shift, or a year. Delegation can be something that makes new managers a little nervous, as they want to delegate fairly – but also in a way that allows them to reach their goals.

You can learn how to delegate properly, by learning who your team is, and how they can help you each day.

What Do Your Employees Do?

If you're going to assign a task to someone in your company, you need to learn who the best person for the job might be. You need to know what the employees of your company are able to do, and what they are unable to do.

The more you learn about what a person does, the better for everyone, and the more easily you can see where you might need a new staff member or where a position might be redundant.

To find out what your employees do:

  • Read their job descriptions. Your employees should have a job description on file, one they may have read before they applied for their current job. If not, then you need to talk to your hiring department about creating these so it's clear what people do in their roles.
  • Talk with their managers. You can also talk to the direct supervisors of the employees (if that isn't you) to see what everyone does on a daily basis. Find out, too, what special projects the employees may have been involved in so you can get a wider sense of their potential.
  • Review their applications/resumes. It can also help to review the application or resume of each employee to see what the employee thinks is important to know about them. You can also use these documents to determine what made the employees interesting to the hiring manager.
  • Talk to the staff members individually. In the beginning of your management, and if you're new to the company, it can be even more helpful to talk to each staff member about what they do and what they can do. You may discover talents and passions that will help encourage even more success in your company.

The more you can know about your team, the more effective you will be in delegating responsibility. After all, as soon as you know what people are already able to do, the more easily you can match them up with suitable assignments.

How to Assign Responsibilities

To assign tasks and responsibilities, you can begin with a plan of what you need done and also the skills necessary to complete those tasks. This is the route to take if you're directly assigning tasks to your team members.

If you're upper management, then you may do the same, but you will explain these tasks to the supervisors. Then, they will pass down the information to their subordinates.

Is it really that simple? Not quite.

Once you have determined what you need and answered any questions that may have arisen as a result, you need to do a bit more.

  • Create a plan. It can't be stated enough that you need to have a plan before you start assigning responsibilities to everyone. And it's true that you may not know exactly how things need to be done, so have some flexibility in your instruction, or have a goal that needs to be reached in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
  • Identify resources needed. From there, you can determine the resources you need, or you can hear from the employees about the resources they feel they need. Gather those ahead of time to ensure the project or assignment can proceed immediately.
  • Set a deadline. To help expedite the process (especially when time is relevant), create a deadline that will allow enough time for the staff member to reach their goals, with some extra time to account for unforeseen issues or problems.
  • Establish check-in points. During the course of an assignment (especially a long one), it can be helpful to have points at which the team member will check in with a manager or with you. These meetings or emails will show the progress that has been made, and it will also help you learn more about any problems that may have arisen.
  • Determine risk and potential problems. Ideally, you would be able to forecast potential problems, but since this isn't always possible, it's best to at least come up with the most common issues before the project begins. In doing so, you will be able to have a plan in place to resolve the issues and move the assignment along.

You may also want to think about assigning responsibilities based on other factors in the team:

  • Deadlines – As you get to know your team and how they function, you will begin to see who is most likely to reach their deadlines on time, and which people may like more fluid timelines. Both of these employees can be valuable to you, but not for every assignment.
  • Workloads – Consider, too, how much work each person on your team is already working on. While you may not be able to assign projects to the person with the most free time, consider how the team members are already managing their projects.
  • History of success – You will also want to think about who you can rely upon when it comes to difficult projects or assignments. If there is someone who is most reliable, they are who should get the assignment before anyone else, even if they're already working hard.

In the end, you will find that certain team members are best for certain projects and assignments. At the same time, it's worth considering when you may try to challenge someone on your team who may not have the experience others do.

When you challenge someone, they may rise to the occasion, and they may add another skill to their professional experience.

Changing What You've Delegated

Sometimes, you need to change what you have already assigned to someone. This might happen for a number of reasons:

  • The other boss/client/customer/vendor changed their mind.
  • The timeline has changed.
  • The goal has changed.

When the assignment or project has changed, it's crucial you communicate this change to your team as soon as possible. If you can do this, the project or assignment can be reworked quickly, without causing an interruption to its progress.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Management Essentials course?

The best way to communicate changes is to follow this process:

  • Know what needs to be changed. When communicating change, be clear about what needs to be changed, and how it needs to be changed. Get an idea in your head about what the current process is and what will need to shift.
  • Offer support. You will want to make sure you allow yourself to be available during the assignment if it's a dramatic or time-sensitive change. In doing so, you will be able to smooth the transition of one assignment to another.
  • Offer resources. If needed, you can also offer resources that will help to support the changes that need to take place. Instead of spending more time on finding the new resources, gather those before you communicate the new responsibilities to your team member.
  • Renegotiate the timeline, if needed. Sometimes, a new task or project will require the team member to start over, which will take up more time and will require a longer timeline. Of course, there will be times when this shift in timeline isn't possible, so clearly communicate that, if that's the situation.
  • Talk in person. Whenever possible, especially if the change is significant, you should talk to the team member in person. This will help them better understand the changes and allow them to ask you questions immediately. Talking in person will also help to ensure your management reputation is one of support, rather than simply giving out orders.

Changes may need to happen on a frequent basis, depending on your industry and its needs. The more you can be ready and able to communicate the changes, the more you can make these changes as painless as possible

Managing Responsibilities During Tough Times

Every company has times when things are difficult or challenging. It's not always going to be easy, and sometimes you will need to manage the responsibilities of your team during turbulent times.

To do this effectively, it can help to remember:

  • Your long-term goals – Think about the company's goals and how you can make changes that will support the direction of the company. It can also help to remind your team of the larger goals in case they have troubles remembering what is important.
  • Your team – Even though things are tough and you are counting on your team to adjust, you need to remember they can only do as much as they can do. Remember that people want recognition and praise, especially as they are working harder, or in a different way.
  • Your own ability – Consider what you can do when things are transitioning from one system to another. Think about how you might be able to step in and help out.
  • The business' systems – If you notice that your company has to change the way it does things on a more regular basis than you might like, you need to look at the bigger systems of your company. Think about what you could change as a manager to make the overall systems better.
Hard times will happen and you may need to shift responsibilities to make it through. If you can inspire an attitude of teamwork, this will go a long way in making sure you are doing the very best for your team, and for the company.
Since you can't do it all as a manager, you need to make sure you're delegating responsibilities fairly and effectively. Consider what you need to do, when you need to do it, and who the best person is for the job, and you'll ensure your To-Do list is completed.

You may have already hired the absolute best team you could hire, and while this may be true, people can always be better than their current best. As a manager, you can actively support your team in developing their skills to become better in their field, and more valuable to the company.

It's not just about hiring new talent, after all. You can also encourage your current team to be more effective and more efficient in their roles today – and tomorrow.

Who Is on Your Team?

You've already begun to look at the people on your team and what they have to offer, but you may want to look again. Consider these questions when you start to look at the team for which you are responsible.

  • What have they done? Stop and take inventory of the projects your current team has done at the company.You may find they have accomplished far more than you realized, and that they are more skilled.
  • What is their training level? Look at the training that each of your employees has completed, or are completing. Consider whether there are gaps in this training.
  • What do they know? Think, too, about who each of your team members is and what they know about their job. They might be valuable resources to new hires, or to those in the company who don't do that particular job.
  • What could they do? Some employees are interested in moving into higher roles of responsibility, but they need more training or mentoring.
  • How could they be better/more efficient? As you continue to observe the way that your team works and how they might be able to work better, you may start to identify areas of improvement. If this is the case, training might help to develop more efficient processes, or the training might teach a person how to create more efficient systems.

Training and Development

Once you have begun to identify the training that might be beneficial to your team and to the business as a whole, you need to review your training and development options.

Internal Training

In some companies, it might be possible to have employees who are already in the company train other employees. This is an option for those companies who want to save money on training, while also wanting to teach company-specific practices.

You can look to:

  • Department trainers – Look at the people in the company who are already tasked with training new employees. They can be people who may be able to help current employees, as well.
  • Managers – Since you and other managers should have more extensive training or skill sets, you may be the best people for developing employees and their abilities.
  • Long-term employees – Even if an employee hasn't been formally named a trainer, when they have had a lot of experience, they might be the right person to transfer knowledge to someone else.

With this sort of training approach, you will need to make sure the trainers have the skills and the training themselves. It might be beneficial to talk with the trainers and have them submit an outline of their anticipated training approach, so it's clear how they will transfer information to their audience.

The downside of internal training is that if this is all you want to use for your development strategy, you might run out of people who have the skills you want to give to other employees.

In addition, it might be hard to entice internal trainers to do this work, because of their own assignment loads, and because they may not be paid more for their efforts.

External Training

Though the more expensive option, external training can help to develop teams even more quickly. Not only are these outside trainers trained in transferring knowledge, but also they are able to utilize training information and tools that have proven successful.

You might find these trainers at local colleges, universities, or even through specific training companies. They are going to be able to take the subject matter and turn it into a series of teachable opportunities. These professionals may come in and provide workshops, or they might work alongside employees to help them improve their current tasks.

For those companies that do not have a large budget for training, this option may not be the feasible one. However, there might be ways to reduce the costs.

In some cases, a company may be able to pay for a training session, and have one employee, or a group of employees, attend. The one person can report back on what they have learned, or some trainers will not charge too much more to teach a group, versus an individual.

Just be certain that you look into the quality of the trainer before hiring someone for your employees. They should be skilled, trained, and qualified not only in their field, but also in the chosen area of study.

After-Hours Training/Education

Some companies will encourage development by providing funds or time for after-hours training. You may want to consider this option if your company doesn't have time to spend on training, but wants to encourage employee development.

This might look like:

  • A suggested list of training courses – You may want to compile a list of suggested training that you'd like your employees to complete, based on their level of difficulty, or their prominence in your field.
  • A schedule of pay raises for training completed – Some companies will offer to increase an employee's pay when they complete so many training courses. This encourages development, while also paying the employee back for their costs, though in a more gradual manner.
  • Other rewards for training – Businesses and managers may find other ways employees can be compensated, or rewarded, for their training time.

When employees take the time to learn more, they not only grow as employees, but they also are able to do better work. This adds up to more revenue for the company, and employees who tend to stay.

Feedback and Performance Evaluations

Though training and development are important, what employees do every day matters, too. If they're not getting regular feedback from their manager, they may not understand when they are doing something wrong – or right.

As a manager, you have an opportunity to help your team develop by providing regular evaluations of their performance.

You might want to sit down with the employee on a quarterly or monthly basis, just to check in about:

  • How they are doing – During your meeting, it can help to begin with finding out about how the employee is. You might learn more about their challenges and their successes, while also creating a personal connection to the person they are, even outside of work.
  • What they need – Find out from the team member what they need and how you can help support them in their job. You may find out they are in need of resources they don't have.
  • What feedback you have for them – Take time to think about the feedback you might have to offer to an employee. Remember, it needs to be specific and actionable. You want to be as clear as possible about how they could improve their work.
  • What feedback they have for you – To help ensure you're not the only person talking, you can also ask the team member what feedback they might have for you. After all, you can still develop your management skills too.
  • A plan for improvement/development – After your conversation, you can draw up a plan that helps each of you determine how training and development activities might proceed. In addition, if there are larger issues to correct, you can include a section about when you might check in again about the progress of these issues.

While employees may not want to have their performance evaluated all that often, they will begin to find these sessions to be helpful. After all, if you give them the exact strategies they need to employ in order to stay successful in their job, you will encourage them to continue to be employed with you.

Building Future Management

Every now and then, you will also spot people on your team who are ideal for management. You may have heard about their leadership ambitions in a performance evaluation, but what do you do with this information?

  • Have a meeting – The best way to begin a manager on their path to leadership is to sit down and have a meeting. Find out why they want to become a manager and see what they understand about the role they want to take in the company.
  • Create a plan – If you find the person is sincere in their plans, you can begin to draw up a potential plan for their transition into leadership. Since there may not be an immediate spot available, you may need to create a plan that may happen if a spot opens up. However, this plan will help show the prospective manager how long the process might take, and how they might begin to take steps now.
  • Assign a mentor – For those who are serious about moving into management, it's best for them to have a mentor who can help them learn more about the role. Perhaps they can sit down with this person (or with you) once a week to learn more about what managers do and what is required as a manager.
  • Schedule additional training – If management has more training than other roles, the prospective manager may want to learn this and begin to take those courses.
  • Allow for hands-on practice – When possible, the person who wants to move into management may be given leadership roles, or be able to take over as a manager from time to time.This will help show them what is required, and it will ignite their passion.

The more a team member can be shown what management is, the more excited they might become, and the more motivated they could become.

Or they might decide it's not the path they want to take, which is good information for them, too.
Developing your team into a more efficient and skilled team not only helps them grow in their roles, but it also helps the team better understand their value to the company.