Beginning the journey of managing staff and teams, brings the need (and the expectation) to delegate tasks. This can be a daunting task for anyone who has not had to delegate before.
Christina Holzhauser is an experienced Executive/Personal Assistant and the founder of the website Tips For Assistants. She gives us her tips which will be useful for all administrative professionals and junior managers on how to begin to delegate.
A lot of assistants feel nervous when having to delegate tasks to other employees for the first time. This is especially the case if delegation is the result of a promotion and involves giving tasks to other assistants that were previously your co-workers. Here are my top tips on how to overcome that feeling of nervousness so you can feel assured when taking on this new challenge.
Keep This In Mind
I get it - it can feel awkward delegating tasks at first. However, this is one of those things that will feel more natural as you do it more often. Keep in mind that this is a skill, and like any other skill in life, you can master it with enough practice.
Another item to keep in mind is that the task being delegated is not originating from you; it is on behalf of your executive or the company you work for. When I reminded myself of this on a regular basis in the beginning, it helped me to feel significantly less nervous.
Also, it never fails to treat the person you are delegating the task to in a way you would like to be treated. Consideration, appreciation and general courtesy are qualities that will always elevate everything you do, especially as you take on managerial duties.
Having a list to reference helps the delegation process to go more smoothly when you are first getting comfortable. Here's a checklist to keep handy so you can make sure you are covering your bases when you first start assigning tasks to others:
- Collect all details before starting the delegation process: A lot of the time you are the intermediary between your executive and the person being delegated to, so make sure you ask all clarifying questions before passing the task along.
- Give clear directions: Don't rush through this step, even if you have a lot on your plate. Make sure you carefully articulate what needs to be completed. You could even take this a step further and explain how the task fits into the bigger picture (if you are allowed to share that information). Sometimes this helps people to have an even clearer understanding of the task at hand.
- Allow enough time to answer questions: It is worth the initial investment of time to answer all questions up front. Also, make sure you verbalize that they can always reach out to you if they think of any questions later on.
- Confirm the individual has access to all necessary resources: Perhaps there are passwords, delegation rights, payment information or specific apps needed to complete the task.
- Give the due date and general completion details: Even if there isn't a set due date, it's nice to set a date so everyone is on the same page. While you are on the topic, it is helpful to give a general time budget for how long the task should take. I recommend ending by giving a clear picture of what a successful outcome looks like.
Overseeing The Task
Micromanaging is never a good idea. On the other hand, you don't want to go the opposite direction and never touch base (unless it's a quick task that will be wrapped up in a matter of a few minutes or hours). A lot of overseeing comes down to judgement calls and making sure you are holding the other person accountable for providing updates on major happenings.
One tactic you could use is a midpoint check-in. I have booked these when delegating more complicated tasks and when delegating tasks to new employees. It's a great way to make sure the task is being carried out correctly. That way, the timeline doesn't get too far off track if any parts need to be adjusted.
One way to make the monitoring process a lot easier is to have your team use a task management program. I'm a big fan of Asana, but there are many others out there (if you need help narrowing down options, here is my master list). That way you can always climb into the task and see the status whenever it's most convenient for you.
In some roles, especially as a house manager or family assistant, a communication notebook can be a handy tool to creatively oversee tasks. Sometimes staff members work different hours and you don't want to interrupt them when they are off the clock. Using a communication notebook is a creative way to do so. If you would like to learn how to use this tool, here is an article detailing how to make this part of your routine.
If there are points when you touch base with the individual about the status, I recommend throwing in words of encouragement and/or appreciation. As I mentioned earlier, it never fails to treat the person how you would like to be treated, and who wouldn't like to feel a bit of recognition or general reassurance along the way? If someone is doing a great job, say so. If you appreciate what they are doing to lighten your load, let them know exactly that.
Once the task is complete, it's a wonderful lesson on both ends to wrap it up with effective feedback. It is helpful for the other individual to know if there are any areas of improvement, if they surpassed your expectations and if your executive has any feedback.
In addition, it's a wonderful opportunity for you to ask for feedback on how well you delegated the task. Perhaps the individual didn't end up having all the resources they needed, you weren't available when they had urgent questions, or other items you could easily improve upon. You will never know and grow it you don't ask.
Delegation is a big step and one that shows you have grown immensely as an assistant. There is an adjustment period when it comes to feeling comfortable with the new responsibility. However, that feeling of nervousness will pass after you start practicing this skill. Once you master it, delegation will become an effective part of your daily routine.