Handing Off Tasks at Work

     It’s shocking how many people are experiencing overwhelm right now. WE have become a society of “busy” people. It’s almost like it’s a badge of honor to have too much on our plates at work. It’s not healthy so let’s look at how to hand of some of the tasks you are hanging onto.

     First let’s look at what makes good things to hand off. Some tasks are great to hand off and others are ones you need to keep, even if you don’t want them. The best tasks to delegate are ones that can be done effectively by someone else and will help the person grow. If you have someone newer on your team and they can compile the data for the monthly report, hand it over to them. It can give them insight into what’s happening on the project. If you have a new team member have them verify the status of subcontractor documentation to help them understand who is on the project and what the subs are doing. Have one of the younger engineers do a portion on the update presentation to give them exposure to leadership.

     What isn’t acceptable to delegate is work that is above someone’s level or skill. It’s great to give assignments that stretch people’s skills, but they must be able to succeed at the work. Also, don’t delegate decision making that belongs at your level.

     One of my bosses wouldn’t decide anything until he consulted with me, even when I had no knowledge of the topic, i.e., system control programming when I’m the materials engineer. He was abdicating all authority to someone who had no authority. Another boss wanted details of every step I took. He had done my job before being promoted and he couldn’t really let go, so he wanted to know everything was being done his way. It was stifling as I didn’t have much room to make my own decisions or find my own solutions. That is until I figured out that it was best to stop asking permission and to give him updates after the fact. He ended up trusting me as he saw I could get things done well. It was exhausting dealing with both terrible bosses.

    Once you’ve found the right tasks to delegate make sure you set up a follow-up framework for the task. This is how will you follow up to ensure things are going smoothly. How you do this depends on the task and the person doing the work. Here are the criteria I use to keep tabs on what I’ve delegated:

  1. Do as instructed. This is used when the person is new and learning. I give clear, complete directions for them to follow. This is micromanaging and is only acceptable if someone really doesn’t know what to do.
  2. Report Back. This is used when the person has a good understanding of what to do and may need some guidance as they learn more about the task. I give clear explanation of what’s expected and leave most of the means up to them. I’m available to help as needed. I want updates to ensure progress is being made, without checking every step taken.
  3. Get it done. This is used when the person is completely capable of doing the task with little to no direction. I will tell them what is needed, by when and let them know I’m available for questions if needed. I expect to hear when it’s done, and I do not expect to review the work at all. This is truly empowering someone to act independently on the task.

     There is no hard and fast rule that you use the first method for people with less than 3 years of experience and the third method with everyone over 10 years of experience. Some one who is more senior may be new to the industry you are in, or it may be using new software they’ve never seen, or they made a career change and are totally new to what you are doing. Sometimes the newest member might have the best tech skills and can handle computer tasks with little oversight. It is situational. Who is doing the task, what is needed, and when does it need to be done all factor into how you hand off a task.

     The trick is to find the right balance between micromanaging and doing a dump and run. Neither one helps you or your team succeed. You can reduce your workload and overwhelm while effectively developing your team. Win- win!


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