How to Become More Comfortable Delegating Your Work

For leadership-minded people, entrusting others to perform assigned tasks is a significant hurdle. Try these specific techniques to curb your micromanagement tendencies and focus on higher-value activities.
Delegating concept

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By Lee Nelson

Brokers are in a distinct position to teach their licensed assistants, agents, and staff through delegation. By teaching your team how to take on some of your responsibilities, you’ll improve their overall experience at work and their careers while continuing to grow your business and vision for the company.

You should only be doing the tasks a managing broker or owner should do, says Andrea Fredrickson, president at Revela Group, a management consulting firm in Omaha, Neb. But delegating is tough for many people. It’s like being a parent: You want your children to become independent without letting them make mistakes, she explains. “Many in leadership roles struggle with the same thing. When someone is being overprotective in a business, it translates to micromanaging,” she says.

Reasons People Don’t Delegate

For some people, delegating never crosses their mind, while others don’t want to take the time to explain or instruct others how to do certain tasks. But often, it’s about not being able to articulate your expectations, goals, and objectives clearly, says Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., executive coach and owner of Success Starts with You in Colorado. For some, it’s just easier and quicker to do it themselves, or they feel that no one will do it as well as they can.

But there are ways to overcome delegation avoidance. Here are techniques for different personality types.

The control freak. These are people who can’t let things go. They thrive on adrenaline and like the challenge of doing all they can. Fouts’ suggestion is to examine where they’re spending most of their time and what they could feasibly give up so they can focus more on increasing productivity.

The vague communicator. These folks often leave out key instructions. When it’s time to delegate a task, Fredrickson finds it’s helpful to end with, “Let’s see if I forgot anything.” Then she asks the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions to see if she has left out any steps.

The conflict avoider. Often, those who avoid confrontation hold their thoughts and emotions inside. When the issue doesn’t get resolved, they might have a tendency to blow up out of frustration. Delegating is about teaching and managing people. This personality type must learn to assert themselves and address an issue more directly—such as a staff member or agent making a mistake—before it becomes a more significant problem, Fouts says.

The guilty conscience. Don’t approach delegating as a means only to free up your schedule. Look at it as a way to help others grow and develop their skills so it’s not just about you. Everyone is busy, but teaching agents and staff new tasks is part of being a good mentor, coach, broker, or manager, Fredrickson says. People learn a lot about themselves when they learn to delegate and do it well. “Help the person manage their priorities and time,” she says. “Then get their buy-in on the additional responsibility.”

How to Start Delegating

First, make a list of the things you think others could do. Choose things that are important but not your highest priorities. Then identify the people who may be able to take on those tasks. “Delegating comes down to understanding if the person you’re delegating to is ready and capable, and how the person you’re delegating learns,” Fredrickson says.

Selecting the right person: Do a thorough assessment to determine if the person has the capability to take on the new responsibility, Fredrickson says. Once you determine whether they are capable, ask them if they are interested. If they’re ready for a new task, then ask how they prefer to learn. Some like to watch others, take notes, and then have someone observe and give feedback. Others like to know the expected outcome and then figure it out themselves. Some need written instructions, others want a hands-on approach, but many need a combination of instruction techniques.

Tips to delegate effectively: Fouts has been working with company leaders who are learning to delegate. Here are her quick tips on how to do it better.

  • Have clearly defined tasks for the person taking on the assignment.
  • Set specific expectations and articulate them to the person.
  • Clarify your needs and establish boundaries with clear dos and don’ts.
  • Be specific on how much time it will take, and allow for a learning curve.
  • Encourage them to ask questions, seek help, and check over their work for errors.
  • Have the person reflect back to you the instructions, expectations, or deadline, including expectations on what they are to do and not do.
  • Reassure and remind people that everything they do is in service to the client.

When Something Goes Wrong After Delegating

Don’t overreach when determining whether a person you delegated tasks to made a mistake. Start by asking yourself if it was truly a mistake or if you just have a difference in preferences, Fredrickson says. If something does go wrong, talk to the agent, team member, or staff person about what everyone learned and how he or she can make improvements going forward. In most cases, having something go awry is a learning opportunity.

“Delegating is not dumping. Delegating is giving people the tools, information, and resources to take on responsibilities,” Fredrickson says. “It takes time and patience, and should be thought of from a proactive perspective not a reactive stance.”