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This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Registration for 2017 has now closed. Winners will be announced in Spring 2017. Sign up to receive an e-mail about registration for 2018 at

As a leader, how often do you feel you are getting buried in details?

One proven way leaders can increase their capacity is through the delegation of tasks they don't need to be doing. Research suggests that only 30 per cent of managers think they are effective at delegation. If you're feeling overloaded, one positive action is to take an inventory of what you can delegate and adopt a delegation framework.

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This microskill explores delegation and how a leader can prepare themselves to incorporate delegation into their daily routine.

Some leaders over-focus on detail and fail to delegate because they get lost in the details. Perfection can be a leader's worst enemy and result in failure. With this hyper-focus comes increased stress and risk for failure that can have a negative impact on the leader and their team.

Understanding the value and benefit of delegation is helpful to motivate a leader to learn how to practice and add this microskill:

· Delegation frees up time and mental energy by off-loading tasks

· It's an excellent way to transfer knowledge and develop the skills of your team members

· It demonstrates trust by assigning more responsibilities to others.

Five steps for effective delegating

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This section introduces a framework for delegating. It's helpful for leaders to develop structure so that the risk for mistakes and miscommunication are mitigated.

Step one: Needs assessment

Determine what you can delegate. Review your to-do list and sort the work by asking yourself a series of questions, such as:· Is this task of high or low priority?

· Am I the only one who can do this task?

· Who else could do it?

· How much authority does this person need to act?

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Step two: Selection of a delegate

Once you have developed your list of tasks that can be delegated, determine the appropriate team member to delegate these tasks to. Consider the present workload of the delegate, as well as any training they might need to be successful. Ask the following questions:

· Who has the time needed?

· Who has the best skillset for the task, or could develop the skills needed with some instruction?

· Who would benefit from a new task?

Step three: Engagement

Delegating a task means drawing a staff member outside their normal workflow. The delegate is likely to be tentative at first, trying to orient themselves towards an unfamiliar assignment. It's helpful for the leader to engage the delegate thoroughly by explaining the task, outlining the expectations, and offering direction and support. A thoughtful process of engagement will help the leader and team member become comfortable with the delegation.

For example:· Discuss the task being assigned and frame how the task will get done as the foundation for the agreement.

Build interest and explore concerns. Explain why the task is important, what it's meant to achieve and how success will be evaluated.

Provide the person an opportunity to express their concerns. This input may help change the framing delegation.

Ask the team member to relay back, in their own words, the expectations outlined for the task in writing. This will serve as the delegation memo and the final agreement that will be measured and monitored by the leader.

Step four: Monitoring Progress

It's psychologically important for the leader to give the person space and a sense of autonomy to own the task that has been delegated. Monitoring should never be intrusive. The point of monitoring is to minimize risk. The leader will always need to be prepared to step in if a task is in danger of going off-course. Along with ensuring the delegate has the resources they need to complete the delegated task, the leader is also responsible for having a fail-safe plan ready in case of emergency. Finally, the leader must acknowledge timelines and show interest as tasks are completed. Anything less sends the message that the task was, in fact, of no importance. Any sense of pride, personal growth or achievement gained from delegation will be lost if the delegate does not feel that the task matters.

Step five: Feedback

One of the leader's most important roles is to be a coach. Any time a task is delegated it's an excellent opportunity for teaching and coaching. As noted before, matching a delegated task to a team member allows the leader to identify and actively grow new strengths and skills within their team. Furthermore, the monitoring system requires feedback from the leader at each milestone, and feedback is critical to successful learning. As well, the leader will want to ensure they share with their team member any success or acknowledgment from senior leadership.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

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