13

I've read the excellent answer by bethlakshmi on how to better delegate work, but I think my problem slightly precedes that one.

After 1 year at my company, in our year-end review, I was praised and told that I would need to start learning some tasks on my track to being a lead. Planning, meetings, etc all make sense. My issue is with one point, where I was told that due to my high workload, I need to learn to delegate tasks better.

At the time, I was the lowest on the totem pole, and after that review, the second lowest on the pole. I don't manage anyone and am young compared to others on the team.

How do I delegate tasks? What do I delegate? Can I delegate work to a senior individual contributor? Only the ones that are "lower ranking" whatever their skillset may be?

19

I'd suggest having a conversation with your boss where you ask for advice about how he wants you to delegate tasks and who he wants you to delegate tasks to. Something along the lines of

"Hey, boss. I know when we talked at my review, you suggested that I learn to delegate. I'd love some advice about how to do that without stepping on any toes.

I've got task X (relatively small, relatively self-contained) that I'd love to get off my plate. I think (name of delegate) would do a great job on it. But I know that (name of delegate) is senior to me so I don't want to come across as asking him to do my work for me. Can you help me figure out how best to approach (name of delegate)?"

This shows that you listened to the suggestion. It shows that you've identified what you want to delegate and who you want to delegate it to, which is a good first step. And it engages your manager to assist you in navigating the political environment (which will likely be different in different organizations and teams).

This may lead your manager to sending out an email to the team letting them know that you're going to be delegating work to them. Your manager might tell you that he'd rather you delegate the task to someone else or putting some additional parameters on the suggestion (e.g. "Jane has been asking to get involved in that project, why don't you work with her instead" or "I've already warned Tim and Steve that they're going to need to pick up some of the tasks you been doing, give them whatever you'd like"). Plus, people generally like it when others come to them for advice (particularly when they can show they've put in some effort already).

Depending on the team, the organization, your relationships with the team, it's also possible that you can just walk up to a senior team member and ask them to take on a task. If it works, that's probably an even better option. But that's also something that is very hard for folks on the internet to diagnose-- the reaction will be very different if your team members see you as a really competent contributor that is being groomed to be a team lead, whether they see you as just "the new guy," whether they see you "jumping the line" to be the team lead or whether they see you as the natural choice, etc.

1

You delegate tasks to your boss by going through your task list and sorting those tasks which you should do from those that could be reassigned to others in whole or in part, given your workload. Your boss should set priorities and appropriate deadlines on the remaining tasks. The lines of communication should be constantly open between you and your boss, as nasty surprises and gotchas abound. While a sound argument can be made that keeping the lines of communication open is both your responsibility and your boss's, you must be ready, able and willing to step in and keep them open all by yourself if your boss fails to do their part.

1

If your group is doing the Agile/Scrum methodology, volunteering to serve as scrum master is one way to get practice in assigning tasks to people (or at least ensuring that tasks are prioritized and that people have volunteered to tackle the most important ones) and tracking their completion. I'd call that good practice for delegating.

Sometimes delegation can be as simple as saying "Hey, I need a bit of help on this problem if we're going to finish it this week; if I can cleanly break it into these pieces, does anyone have some spare time to grab one or two of them and rattle off a solution to it?"

You don't need to be senior to delegate -- you just need to get buy-in from the folks who would be picking up the work. Being senior (or a team leader, or a manager) does make that easier, of course, but it isn't always necessary if a team is working well together.

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