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Last updated April 7, 2017

In my experience, people who work in the community sector are the Kings and Queens of ‘doing it all’. Most non-profit managers juggle several different hats and they are constantly trying to meet the needs of numerous stakeholders. Their to-do list gets longer and longer, until finally something snaps.

One way to ease the pressure is to become an expert delegator. Start by working out which tasks you really enjoy and which tasks you’re really good at, then make a plan to delegate the rest. Sound easy? Not at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Check out our 5 Top Tips for Effective Delegation.

1. Delegate Consistently
Don’t wait until you are overloaded to delegate tasks, instead get into the habit of questioning the relevance of every task you complete. Is this really the best use of my time? Is this something I want to be spending my energy on? Who else could do this task for me?

I know it often feels easier to do things yourself, and in the short term that may well be true. However, if you really care about the organisation you support it is important that other people develop skills and expertise to do the job as well. If you suddenly got hit by a bus they would need to learn how to do it, so they might as well learn now while you’re still around to teach them.

By consciously analysing each task and slowly handing over small jobs piece by piece, you’ll start to feel more comfortable with letting go and it will have positive impacts for your team as well. When you delegate tasks on a consistent basis, people feel trusted and valued for their contribution. They know they are not just there for emergencies.

2. Match Tasks Wisely
Before delegating any task, make sure you are matching the right person to the right job. What skills do they have? What are they passionate about? How have they demonstrated that they are capable of completing the task well? Will this task excite them or drain them? Do they have time to do the job well or are you adding unreasonable pressure to their workload?

Before you start on your crusade of delegation, it’s a good idea to talk with your staff and volunteers and explain that you’re going to start passing on some responsibilities. Find out from them if there is something they are particularly interested in taking up. Is there an area that they are keen to learn about or explore?

You may find there are people desperately waiting to get their hands on a task you’re ready to drop. If you do your homework it can easily become a win-win situation for everyone.

3. Clearly Communicate Your Expectations
When delegating a task, make sure you clearly communicate your expectations. When do you need the task completed? Are there specific processes that need to be followed, or are you just looking for a result? What would success in this task look like to you?

The more specific you can be in your expectations, the more likely you are to get the result you’re looking for. If a specific process needs to be followed, make sure that the process is written down in an easy-to-use format and check for understanding before you walk away. It’s much easier to clarify things at the beginning, than fix up the consequence of a misunderstanding at the end.

4. Balance Your Involvement
Once you have delegated a task, you need to be careful not to over-supervise otherwise you might as well be doing it yourself. Right from the start, agree on how often you will receive progress reports and how those reports will be made, and then find the balance between ‘leaving them to it’ and ‘being available for support’.

Remember, they may not handle the task exactly as you would, but that is just a part of delegation. Take a deep breath and trust in the end result.

5. Maintain Accountability and Acknowledge Contributions
Even though you are delegating the task, as a manager you are still ultimately responsible for the overall success of the project. Be prepared to accept responsibility for any mistakes that are made, and instead of casting blame, work with the individual to debrief about what went wrong and how things could be done differently next time.

In reverse, when the project is complete and you are being praised for a successful outcome, make sure you publically acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of others. People will be more likely to help out again if they feel like you genuinely value their contribution.

Kerri Tilby-Price
Kerri is a Facilitator / Trainer with Exult and has over 20 years experience working in and for the community sector.

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