‘If I do it, I’ll do the job right. If someone else does it, they won’t’. Sounds familiar, right? That’s because you’re not alone, a lot of Project Managers find it difficult to delegate. We are going to give you some simple steps to delegate tasks successfully.

Some take well to delegation, others don’t. Perfectionists, for example, it pains them to give control to someone else in fear that it won’t be done the way they want it to be or in other cases, scared that they may do it better than you.

As a Project Manager, you will probably have countless tasks and responsibilities to carry out. Despite this, so many seem unwilling to delegate and instead prefer to be the one in control. Time is precious in the project management world, some work 60+ hours a week.

There’s nothing shameful in giving someone else work. Learning how to delegate effectively can build you as a great Project Manager. It will save you time, money and could increase the success rate of projects.  So it’s time to put your ego away as we look at how to successfully delegate.

Choose carefully when you delegate tasks

By delegating, I don’t mean for you to hand over every item of work leaving you to twiddle your thumbs at your desk. No. What I mean is to give some (keyword being some) of your responsibilities and tasks with your team members. Make sure you are still responsible for the most critical parts of the project. Or if you are less experienced in certain fields, pass them over to someone who is more knowledgeable on that subject.

Be specific and give clear instructions

Imagine being given an Ikea bookshelf to put together and not having any instructions? It would probably take you 10 hours to put together, a screwdriver being thrown out of the window…and a bookshelf…that looks nothing like a bookshelf. OK, so now you have that image in your head, it just goes to show that a simple lack of clear guidance on how to complete a task can lead to bad results.

You don’t have to dumb down instructions, this will come across as insulting. However give them enough information about what you want to achieve, the method in which it should be done and what your expectations are when assigning responsibilities.

Set a time frame

When you need to delegate tasks, you must be clear about the time frame they have to complete it in. Give them a reason that you’ve chosen this particular time frame to ensure their acceptance of the task.

The length of time you choose to give them can vary on the response you get. Setting a near-impossible deadline could make someone doubt their abilities, triggering them to lose motivation in doing it at all. However, choosing a long deadline could mean people drag their feet and take longer than the task should take.

Try to steer clear of phrases such as ‘Get it done when you can‘. Some people (not all of them) will take that quite literally and will get it done whenever they feel like it.

Find out what people’s workloads are

If Bob already has a heavy workload and you go and give him an extra 20 hours of work, you aren’t going to be much liked. Be considerate of the amount of work people already have.

Part of your role as a good Project Manager will try to manage people’s limitations and don’t push them beyond that. This will only increase stress levels and will also decrease the quality of their work.

– Just for the record also, no amount of bribery or chocolate biscuits will make them feel any better, remember that.

Give them space

I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if you were given a task to do by a senior figure and then had someone breathing down your neck every five minutes just to ‘check if you’re OK’. You might feel like you’re just being helpful but you need to give them creative space.

This is their opportunity to prove their worth and that they can take on a challenge thrown at them by you. They may even come up with other ideas and suggestions to do the task better. Listen to them!

By all means, if they ask for support then make sure you’re there for them.

Get to know your team

When selecting who you’re going to give a task to, you need to know if they’re capable of performing it well. Make sure you put in the effort to get to know your team, this will help to uncover their traits, characteristics and skills. Be professional, don’t give tasks to ‘friends’ who you want to go easy on. Give them to people that you know will deliver. It will only reflect badly on you if tasks aren’t done well.

You need to ensure that you give the right people the right tasks. They could have twenty years of experience but if someone with half that is better at a certain task, they will be the better fit for the task.

Keep track of who is doing what

Make sure you are noting down which individual is on each task and keep a record of any status updates. Keeping a log will give you visibility over what is going on.

What are your own delegation skills like, are you a perfectionist that has trouble letting go or do you follow this approach already? What are your own tips for delegating to project team members?

One way to keep track of project team members and be able to delegate tasks effectively is by using Microsoft Project Online.

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By: Baz Khinda

Baz Khinda
Commercial Director, BA, MBS, MCTS, CertBusM, PRINCE2, Microsoft P-SSP (Partner Solution Sales professional)

Published: 25 August 2015

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