How to Delegate Tasks Like a Pro

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Often people approach me and say, “What is it that you really do? You are never at your desk so I’m not sure. We always just see you roaming the floor, having meetings and talking to Delegate Tasks Like a Propeople.” It eventually dawned on me that those who question my job don’t understand. They don’t see that I get to work at six a.m. to prepare, organize and plan my day long before they ever arrive. They also probably don’t appreciate the most important part of what I do, and that is to delegate. Delegating tasks makes any job look easy, but I also surround myself with smart people who make me look good.

Early in my career I learned to watch other people and model those who were smart about how they ran their job or conducted their business. I studied them to figure out why they make things look so easy. In time I learned how to delegate like a pro, and would like to share a couple of those lessons with you.

The verb delegate means to entrust a task or responsibility to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself. I really like this because things go wrong when delegating things incorrectly. You can delegate the wrong things to the wrong people, so it’s important to first define WHAT routine tasks or responsibilities to delegate and then define WHY you want to delegate them.  You don’t want to become the bottleneck and the reason your project derails. Instead, focus and spend your time on getting the biggest bang for your buck where it’s most important — managing projects and leading the team.

There are six tips to delegating tasks like a pro, things I learned not only from experience but also from those I modeled.

  1. Remember Your Role. The best use of your time is to manage your project, lead your people, strategize, plan, build and nurture relationships within your team and among your stakeholders, with clients and any external organizations or vendor partners. That’s your role.
  2. Determine your Time Wasters. Find out where you are wasting most of your time — not using most of your time, but wasting. What can you delegate so that you have more time to do what you want to do?
  3. Clarify the routine task and responsibilities that you can delegate. It’s best when you have a process around those routines. Routines are things that can be done over and over again, or can be operationalized. If you have a process around routines and they are clear and defined, they are arguably the easiest to delegate, especially to someone less senior than you.
  4. Determine who is qualified to do something. You want to know who can take a task, run with it and get it done. If you delegate the wrong thing to the wrong person it frustrates them, the work doesn’t get done and you end up taking it back and doing it anyway, resulting in other unfavorable dynamics on the project. To determine who is qualified look at things like:
    • Who has the experience
    • Who has the expertise
    • Who has the passion – a lot of times passion for learning and wanting to do more goes a long way. They tend to be very invested and loyal to you as a project manager and you can trust they’ll get a task done.
    • Who has what thinking style. If you give the task of analyzing detailed metrics to someone who is not a detailed person, you set them and yourself up for failure. It’s not going to get done and they will get frustrated. Maybe they are an intuitive right brain thinker who would do well with creative tasks. Understand what you are delegating and the kind of thinking it takes to get that task done.
    • Who has the drive to get it done
    • Who has the follow-through. It’s important that people have the ability to follow through. Otherwise, they keep coming back, asking a million questions: “How do I do this, how do I do that, who do I call…” If someone always needs your guidance then that’s probably not the best person to delegate to, because you’re trying to get rid of the time wasters so you do not become the bottleneck.
  5. Delegate.
  6. Rinse and repeat early and often.

As I said earlier, find a pro to study and model. Continue to challenge yourself to learn, grow and do things better through the study of others. Surrounding yourself with smart people is also key to learning, and certainly helps to make you look good.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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