How To Master The Art Of Delegating When You Really Like Being In Control

Giving up control can be scary because you have to rely on other people to take care of something that you’re ultimately responsible for. But you can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything yourself.

By Ella Carroll-Smith3 min read
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

No matter where you are in life, mastering the art of delegation is a critical skill to develop. Maybe you’re in college working on a group project, or you work a corporate job where you oversee a team of employees. Or maybe you volunteer at a non-profit where you’re responsible for managing groups of other volunteers. Regardless of the situation, you need to learn how to delegate properly if you want to be successful and keep your sanity. 

While delegation is a necessity, it can also be scary – especially if you’re a type-A gal like me and like being in control. Giving up control means you have to trust other people to do a great job, and that can be hard to do. You’ll probably have to fight the urge to do everything yourself, adjust your expectations, and work on your communication skills. Here are some steps you can take to master the art of delegation and become a great leader who people will want to work hard for. 

Choose the Right People 

If you have a hard time giving up control, then don’t delegate to people you don’t know and don’t trust. Instead, choose people with a proven track record of success whom you’ll feel comfortable trusting with the project. If these people were selected for you and you didn’t have any say in the matter, then get to know them prior to your project. Find out what their strengths are, what their preferred communication style is, and what expectations they might have. When you trust the people on your team, it's easier for you to give up control.

Provide Clear Instructions and Expectations

Even the most talented people in the world still need some instruction. When you’re delegating, be sure to provide your team with clear instructions about what you want them to do and what you expect of them. Tell them what the deadline is and when you expect to get updates about their progress. If you require them to make edits or changes, be specific in what you're looking for so they can complete the task to your liking. Make sure you all have the same vision and end goal in mind from the very beginning. This will cut down on future miscommunication and mishaps. 

Establish a “no dumb questions” rule so your team always feels comfortable coming to you when issues arise.

Communicate Openly and Often

Your team is bound to have a few questions throughout their process, so make sure they feel comfortable coming to you when that happens. Establish an open line of communication from the outset, and let them know they can always come to you with any questions. In past jobs, I’ve established a “no dumb questions” rule with my teams so that no one ever hesitates to ask a question for fear of sounding stupid. Likewise, I would take the time to listen to their questions and answer them appropriately without brushing them off. It's always best to err on the side of too much communication over too little.  

Reward Good Work and Provide Positive Feedback

People are more motivated to do good work when they feel appreciated. When your team provides you with an update – even if it’s something small – tell them they did a great job and let them know you’re proud of what they’ve accomplished so far. If they feel valued, then they’ll be even more inspired to go above and beyond and keep doing great work. Positive feedback strengthens relationships, while negative feedback corrodes them. 

Don’t Focus on the Negative

One of the scary things about leadership is that the buck stops with you. If there's a problem, it reflects badly on you. When issues arise, you need to address them, but don’t fixate on them. Be honest with your team about what the problem is, but don’t dwell on it or play the blame game. You need to take accountability too. Is it possible that a lack of communication on your part led to the mishap? If so, then own up to it and tell your team you are going to make some changes too. Find the fastest and clearest way to let your team know what went wrong and come up with a plan to fix it. 

Positive feedback strengthens relationships, while negative feedback corrodes them. 

Avoid Hovering

It’s fine to check in every once in a while to see how things are progressing, but recognize that other people might have a different process than you, and that’s okay! We all operate differently, and just because someone isn’t completing a task exactly the way you would do it doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong. Maybe they organize things differently or use different tools. As long as the final outcome is what you want, then the process doesn’t really matter. 

Closing Thoughts

Delegation can be scary, but also rewarding. It’s exciting to see other people successfully execute your vision and work with a team on something great. Plus, when you delegate properly, you have more time to focus on the tasks that only you can do. Putting these tips into practice will help you not only be a better delegator, but will also ensure that the process is enjoyable for you and your team. 

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