Want to Delegate-But Just Don't have the Time?

Posted on January 27, 2012.

For most managers, this is an extremely busy time of the year. You’ve likely got goal setting, performance reviews, bonus discussions and strategic planning. Did we forget to mention you also have the day-to-day responsibility of managing your team? Drinking from a fire hose doesn’t even cover it. You really want to delegate some of your work but lets face it delegating takes time.  How do you even start?

  1. Start with your emails.  If you’re honest with yourself, this is the biggest time waster you have. Start by setting up filters so everything you’re only copied on goes into its own folder.  Take some time up front to provide your assistant with instructions on how to handle the emails in this folder.  With some solid feedback, he/she will soon learn what’s important or critical and what can be tabled indefinitely. You should never be opening these emails directly unless they are confidential.  Once you’ve reduced your email traffic, set-aside a specific time during the day to read, respond and delete.  Stick to the schedule, take control of your inbox and stop letting it control you.
  2. Prioritize.  Making a to-do list is not the same as weighting the list by importance.  Not everything needs to done right away.  Find the items that are critical to your business unit or the operations of the company. Mark those are top priority with a letter A. Take a look at what’s left and really think about who else can complete them. If you need to allocate goals, why not put a group of your top performers together and let them take a stab at it first? You not only have moved something off your plate, but you have just achieved buy-in from your team.
  3. Plan ahead. The biggest excuse I hear people use when asked why they don’t delegate more is, "It takes longer to explain what needs to be done than if I just do it myself".  There is some truth to this statement, which is why it’s really important to know ahead of time what needs to be done and when. This isn’t college and cramming at the last minute just isn’t going to fly. Taking the time upfront to train someone else or explain the task, removes that item forever. Plus, you demonstrate trust and confidence in the person you train.
  4. When delegating, make it clear what needs to be done.  Too often, managers will throw something on someone’s desk and the recipient has no idea what, when, how or why the job should be done. So when it’s not completed correctly, the manager rationalizes once again why they refuse to delegate. No matter what the task, people need to know not only exactly what’s expected, but when it’s due, the best way to accomplish it and why it needs to be done. Not explaining how something fits into the bigger picture leaves people confused when confronted with a challenge they didn’t anticipate. Make sure when they deliver the completed task, you supply feedback on what they did well and where they missed the mark.

Managers often thrive on being stressed and overwhelmed. But using the excuse of not having the time to delegate deprives your staff of key learning, coaching and feedback. After all, some of them may want to be a manager one day too.