Monday, October 30, 2017

If You Don't Learn to Delegate, Your Career Will Stagnate

Many people believe that only bosses get to delegate, but that's a belief that can hurt your career.

If you don't learn to delegate -- even in the early stages of your career -- then you're not using your abilities to the greatest advantage for you and for your employer.

You may believe that delegating isn't worth it. You would rather do the work yourself than go through the hassle of teaching someone else how to do it, or you believe the other person will screw it up so it's better if you just stick with it. Perhaps you've even had one or two bad experiences with delegating, so you vow never to do it again.

The problem is that delegating is a skill, and needs to be developed if you want to move up in the ranks at work. If you're not successful at delegating, then that means you're getting bogged down in tasks that can keep you from getting a big project or a promotion. Your career begins to stagnate under work that should be done by someone else, and soon you get a reputation as someone who is too afraid or to unskilled to take on new challenges.

When considering what you can delegate, make a list of your priorities for the week in order of importance to your boss. Then, make a list of what you need to get done in a week. When you compare the two lists, you'll note you have many more items on your list -- and those are the ones that you should think about delegating. If those jobs aren't important priorities for your boss, then you need to start re-thinking the time and effort you give to those tasks.

Now, this is when it gets tricky for people. How to delegate? Who should you ask?

Here are some things to consider:

1. Fit. When you need to delegate a task, why do you need to delegate it to that specific person? If it's because this colleague will stay until 10 p.m. to make sure it's done right, that's not a good enough reason. That's just you dumping work on someone. But if the task requires using an Excel spreadsheet -- and there's another employee who doesn't have much experience in that area -- then you're offering that colleague a chance to grow his or her skills.
2. Commitment. A lot of people don't realize that the reason their delegation attempts haven't worked in the past is because they are lousy delegators. They delegated the task and then just walked away after a brief explanation of the work. If you want delegating to be successful, you have to make the commitment to be clear with instructions (putting things in writing is always very helpful) and being available should questions arise. You're not there to hover over the work, but in the beginning you need to be available -- and welcoming -- of questions or concerns.
3. Enthusiasm. "Jerry, can you get these reports entered into the system? This is the suckiest job, but I really need to move onto something else," you say. Gee, who wouldn't want to jump in and help with such an exciting request? Instead, say something like, "Jerry, I know you've been trying to get more training time on this software, and I believe I've come up with something that can help both of us. I can help you become more fluent on this system if you can enter these numbers for me. I'll be right here if you have any questions, but this is certainly something that helped me become more confident using this system." This way, you're not overselling the task, but you're pointing out the advantage for your colleague -- a critical step in forming a positive delegating relationship.

As you progress through your career, you should always reassess what makes you the most effective and the best ways to use your skills. Learning to delegate -- for the right reasons -- is a critical ability that will make you more productive.


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