Let’s admit it: Delegating is tough stuff.

It means you have to pass off a part of your work to someone else and trust that they’ll nail it. And that’s not all — you’re still the one responsible when everything’s said and done. Understandably, that would make anyone a little reluctant to become a delegating master. Many folks justify their hesitancy by thinking:

  • My team can’t do the job as well as I can…
  • It’s faster for me to just do the work myself…
  • Other people aren’t as committed to doing a great job as I am…
  • If someone else can do my work, I might seem replaceable…
  • I like doing this type of work…
  • My team’s already overworked; it’s unfair to ask them to do more…

Although these reasons may seem valid in the moment, a little logical questioning often reveals they’re just excuses — excuses that could be holding you back. That’s because part of your job probably requires focusing on big-picture duties, so you can help move your company forward. But it’s a chicken-and-egg problem — you can’t dive into those heftier tasks unless you delegate more.

The funny thing is, most of us probably don’t delegate enough because we were never taught how exactly to do it. But today, we’re going to change things up.

Delegating is more than just tossing someone a task, saying “here you go,” and walking away. The six tips below will help you delegate so effectively that your work will get done in a snap, your team will become more skilled, and you’ll even have extra time to spend on the bigger things you want to do.

6 ways to delegate work more effectively

1. Build a relationship first

Always establish a relationship before assigning someone work. Why is this important? Because you need to fully trust people before you can feel confident they’ll accomplish a given task. This is especially key if you didn’t hire the person you’re delegating to, or don’t know them that well. If the person works remotely, consider using video chat software like Google Hangouts or Skype while discussing the project. That way, you can connect faster when you see their (sometimes pixelated) face, read their body language, and hear the natural inflections in their voice.

2. Assign the right task to the right person

When delegating to freelancers, you probably vet them for the right skills and experience, assign the task and deadline, and then wait for the deliverables to sail your way. In contrast, giving work to full-time employees involves a different level of freedom around how tasks are completed. Usually, you give more ownership to an employee who is experienced and reliable, and less freedom when the task is critical, or when the result will affect your job or reputation.

Bonus tip: If a person needs more input to finish a task, tell whoever else needs to know that you have delegated this responsibility, so other staff members can provide the appropriate level of support.

3. Clarify the commitment

A huge part of your success depends on how clearly you explain what you want your employee or freelancer to do. Note that being clear and specific is not the same as micromanaging, which rings especially true for freelancers who have the skills and experience to work independently. If something has to be done in a particular way, it’s your job to let the team know. Otherwise, get comfortable with having the person figure it out on their own. And hopefully, they come up with a new take on something you end up loving.

For clarity upfront, be sure to:

  • Give the project context by sharing how it plays into your company’s larger goals
  • Specify deadlines, milestones, and deliverables. Being overly detailed is a good thing here!
  • Let the person know what the job looks like when it’s done well
  • Confirm their commitment and understanding before the project starts

4. Use collaboration technology

Whether you’re delegating to one person or a whole group, don’t only rely on email to stay connected. Tools that help your team collaborate better can help everyone stay organized, work openly, and communicate more easily. Be sure to choose products that are not only accessible to remote folks, but also, easy to pick up.

Popular options include:

  • GitHub: For sharing and storing code
  • Google Docs: For sharing and live editing documents
  • Basecamp: For sharing, discussing, and tracking projects
  • Slack: For communicating with teams

5. Hold weekly meetings

This tip is interpreted a little differently when you’re working with freelancers. Since they work independently, just let them know you’re available when needed to answer any questions. But for employees, weekly meetings are essential. If you can’t arrange time to meet face-to-face, set up weekly calls (preferably as a video chat) to answer questions, review what’s been accomplished, and discuss what needs to get done. Communicate feedback regularly one-on-one, so the team feels trusted, valued, and included. When working with remote employees, weekly video calls are a particularly important way to stay connected and keep everything working like clockwork.

6. Make yourself available

Although you’re the one delegating work, be sure team members know you’re also available to talk through things whenever, wherever. It’s always better to answer questions as they come up, rather than be surprised later on when a deadline isn’t met or a project is derailed.

Levels of delegation

Delegation isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Alan Chapman, founder of the business advice site Businessballs, identified 10 levels of delegation for newbies looking to grasp this difficult but crucial part of managing a team. Chapman’s framework focuses on employees, with each level progressively offering a higher level of freedom, coaching, and development opportunities.

For easier reference, we created a chart that modifies his findings to seven levels of delegation for both employees and freelancers. Typically, levels one through five are for employees, while levels six and seven apply to freelancers because they already have the expertise under their belt. That enables them to do everything from start to finish without as much management.

Infographic describing seven levels of delegation

Click image to enlarge

Granting freedom while staying involved

Each time you hand off work to your employees, they receive an opportunity to develop critical thinking skills that stretch their imagination and improve their ability to resolve situations. Although you may not want to be too hands-off, keep in mind that the best kind of learning often comes from making mistakes and figuring out how to correct them on your own.

HR professionals advise a balance between staying involved enough to evaluate your employees’ performance and development and letting go enough so employees can lead the way. On the other hand, delegating to freelancers requires a different type of balance. Although our six tips for delegating still apply, contractors should remain completely independent. This means you can check in occasionally, but you shouldn’t manage, coach, or mentor them like you would with an employee.

Another benefit of delegating more is that it can help you hold on to valuable workers. Statistically, younger folks leave positions within three years in search of greater challenges and growth opportunities. But what if your team could continue growing from all the unique tasks they get to sink their teeth into? If that’s what you’re eyeing, the d-word may just be your secret weapon.

This article was originally published on Upwork’s Hiring Headquarters

Brenda Do Brenda is a direct-response copywriter who loves sales. In addition to writing for various companies, Brenda speaks at professional groups to help other marketers and small business owners improve their copywriting skills.
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