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4 delegation styles that can banish micromanagement for good

Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

July 20, 2022

When it comes to micromanaging, everybody loses. Not only is it stressful for all involved (no one likes the feeling of someone breathing down their neck), but it’s also a major drain on time and resources.

Imagine hiring a professional cleaner to tidy up your house. Would you follow them around with a duster and polish rather than trusting them to do the job they’re paid to do? Of course not! And yet this is exactly what micromanagers do.

Delegation is key to any successful operation, whether in business or our personal lives. It allows us to focus on what we’re good at and leaves the rest to people who may be better suited to the task. So, how do you get it right?

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of delegation, run through the most popular delegation styles, and give some tips on how to delegate more effectively — including for remote teams.

What is micromanaging, and why is it a problem?

Micromanagement occurs when a manager closely observes and controls the work of subordinates or employees. While managers need to provide guidance and support to those they manage, micromanaging takes this to an extreme — often to the point where it interferes with employees’ ability to do their job properly.

Micromanaging can also lead to higher stress and plummeting motivation. In fact, one survey found that employees who are micromanaged are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

Why do people micromanage?

If it’s such a drain on everyone’s time and resources, why do managers micromanage? There can be a few reasons.

Some managers may feel they need to be in control of everything to feel like they’re doing their job properly. Others may not trust their employees to do a good job or may be worried that they’ll make mistakes. In some cases, micromanagement may result from a manager feeling pressured by senior management to get results.

Whatever the reason, micromanaging is generally counterproductive. So, if you are forming this habit, it’s time to reassess. But before we get into how to do it, let’s take a look at the benefits of delegation.

What is delegation, and why is it important?

Delegation involves making someone else responsible for a task or activity. It’s a vital business skill, and without it, things would quickly grind to a halt. After all, there’s only so much one person can do.

When used effectively, delegation can help managers focus on more strategic tasks while employees are allowed to develop new skills and take on more responsibility.

Think of your typical football game. The head coach stands on the sidelines, making strategic decisions about who to put in, who to take out and when, and what defense/offense formations to put in play. If they suddenly hopped over the barrier and onto the field, it would be chaos. The players wouldn’t have anyone to guide them, and their responsibilities would suddenly get confused.

Delegation can also help to increase motivation levels, as employees feel empowered to work to their strengths. Who doesn’t love feeling trusted and in control of their work?

Types of delegation styles

There are four main types of delegation:

  1. Functional delegation
  2. Line authority delegation
  3. Staff authority delegation
  4. Project-based delegation

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

1. Functional delegation

Functional delegation is when a manager delegates a task to an employee who has the necessary skills and experience to carry it out. One example is delegating the task of preparing a report to an experienced analyst.

When a manager assigns a task using functional delegation, they’re confident the employee has the skills and experience to carry out the task efficiently. This can free up the manager’s time to focus on more strategic jobs.

Meanwhile, the employee gains the opportunity to use their skills and expertise, leading to increased motivation levels.

2. Line authority delegation

Line authority delegation is when a manager delegates a task to an employee who reports directly to them in the organizational hierarchy. For example, a senior copywriter would delegate the task of proofreading an article to a junior copywriter.

Line authority delegation is often considered one of the most straightforward delegation styles, as the manager already has a direct line of communication with the employee. But it’s important to remember delegation doesn’t mean passing on the responsibility. It’s still the delegator’s task, and they’ll need to provide guidance to ensure it’s carried out satisfactorily.

3. Staff authority delegation

Staff authority delegation is when a manager delegates a task to an employee who reports to someone else in the organization, usually at a higher level. Delegating the task of preparing a budget to a finance analyst who reports to the CFO is a good example.

Staff authority delegation can be a more challenging type of delegation, as the manager won’t necessarily have a direct line of communication with the person involved. Yet, this can also be a benefit. It encourages cross-team collaboration, allowing the delegator to tap into the skills and expertise of employees who may not report directly to them.

4. Project-based delegation

Project-based delegation is when a manager delegates a task to an employee or team for a specific period. For instance, a manager might delegate the task of planning a company event to a team of employees for a six-week period.

Project-based delegation is often used for time-consuming or complex tasks. It allows the manager to dedicate a specific amount of time to the task, which makes the work more focused.

Delegating on a project basis can also benefit employees, allowing them to work on a project from start to finish and see the results of their efforts. Not to mention, they can work and build relationships with employees from other teams.

Delegation best practice: tips and tricks

Now let’s take a look at how to use these effectively.

1. Be clear about what you want to achieve

When delegating a task, it’s important to be clear about what you want to achieve. This means setting specific goals and objectives for the task, ensuring the employee can see the bigger picture and understand what’s expected of them.

Setting clear deadlines and milestones in your project management software is a wise move here. Tracking progress in one place allows the team to know what’s expected of them and the timeframe for completing their assignments. More importantly, you can monitor their progress in a more hands-off manner.

Backlog Gantt chart of website development project

A Gantt chart created in Backlog

2. Choose the right person for the job

Do you know the qualifications of the person you’re about to hand this important job to? Consider the skills and experience of the employee, as well as their workload and availability. You’ll be much more confident knowing you’ve chosen a safe pair of hands.

3. Provide adequate support and guidance

We’ve all had that manager who just dumps a load of work and then disappears. Don’t be that person! Give the employee the resources and information they need to complete the task, and stay available to answer any questions they may have.

4. Follow up, and give feedback

When delegating a task, it’s important to follow up along the way. Check in with the employee to see how they’re progressing and give them feedback on their performance. But try to strike a balance between interfering and being too hands-off.

There’s no set answer here for how often is too often; it depends on the project. However, most teams find quick daily catch-ups with longer weekly or monthly check-ins best. If in doubt, chat with other managers or the person taking on the job to see what works best for them.

Project management software and work chat apps can be a lifesaver here. Instead of walking over and interrupting their flow or sending loads of time-consuming emails, you can just fire over a quick ‘do you have everything you need to get started on X today?’ as needed.

5. Delegate whole tasks, not bits and pieces

Where possible, give the person the whole task (not just part of one). This increases their sense of responsibility and allows them to see the task through to completion.

6. Trust the team

If you choose the right person, tell them what’s expected of them, and set out a plan for success, there’s absolutely no reason for micromanaging. If you are still tempted to jump in, it could mean you have a trust issue.

Consider consulting your manager about this. Perhaps, you’re being micromanaged yourself, or your deadlines are unattainable. Either way, you’ll need to readjust your approach if you want a happy, efficient team.

Delegation styles: things to watch out for

As with all management styles, delegation comes with risks. Here are a few things to watch out for when delegating tasks:

1. Over-delegation

Avoid delegating too many tasks or tasks that are too complex. This will only lead to employees feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

2. Under-delegation

Avoid delegating tasks that are too simple or ones you could easily complete yourself. Under-delegation will frustrate your team and make them feel undervalued and bored, especially if they’re highly trained professionals.

3. Micromanaging

Avoid delegating tasks and then constantly checking up on the employee. This will only demotivate and frustrate them (and you). Project management software is ideal for hands-off tracking, while chat apps are great for more casual check-ins.

4. Not providing adequate support and guidance

Avoid throwing work at employees without much else in the way of guidance. This will only lead to employees feeling lost and confused, and the task will likely be completed poorly.

5. Not following up and providing feedback

Avoid delegating tasks without following up and providing feedback. Without a doubt, employees will feel unappreciated and that their efforts are going unnoticed.

Final thoughts

When delegation is done effectively, it can lead to increased productivity and efficiency and a happier, more motivated team. But it’s important to remember that delegation is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The most effective delegation styles depend on the task, the team, and the organizational context.

As a manager, you must be aware of different delegation styles and how to use them appropriately. You also need to have collaboration tools that help everyone work together seamlessly, whether they’re in the same office or spread out across the globe. By doing so, you can make sure tasks are delegated efficiently and that your team has the opportunity to develop and grow.



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