Because today’s moms are wearing so many hats, learning how to delegate tasks is a must. That doesn’t mean it comes easily. Obstacles and nagging doubts crop up: “What if it’s not done right?” “What if asking for help turns me into a nag or a burden?” “Isn’t it just easier to do it myself anyway?”
The reassuring truth is that people want to help. They may not say so right away, or even be aware of it, but kids, husbands, and even friends and co-workers would usually rather be part of a solution than see you fail and fail while trying to do it all on your own. What’s more, pairing people up with jobs they can successfully complete can actually foster positive feelings of self-efficacy and promote a sense of teamwork.
So how does one go about learning to delegate tasks? It’s best to learn by doing! Here are some tips to keep in mind along the way, applicable to kids and adults alike:
- Evaluate Tasks
Before you go about delegating tasks, take a good look at what needs to be done, and decide what can be delegated, and what needs to be done by you. Is there a certain way something needs to be done -- a way that you alone understand? Is it something that you really want to do? Maybe it’s not the best candidate to delegate. However, if there are tasks that can be done by someone else and would really help by freeing you up to do other important work, delegate away!
- Find a Good Fit
Not all tasks can be done well by all people. While you may be surprised by how capable your kids, partner and co-workers are once they try a new task, also keep in mind what their strengths and weaknesses are before you assign tasks. For example, if something needs to be done a certain way, be sure you’re giving that task to a detail-oriented person. If something needs a creative eye or a soft touch, delegate it to the artist on hand. It's also a good idea to break bigger projects up into smaller tasks and delegate those, rather than dropping a big project into someone's lap. One mistake people make when first learning to delegate tasks is inadvertently setting people up to fail. If you match tasks with strengths, everyone will be happier.
People -- especially people with ages in single digits -- may be reluctant to help at first. Try to let people know what’s in it for them, rather than just piling on the work and demanding it be done. Remember, you don’t want to be a nag, and they don’t want to be pushed into anything. (This goes for adults, too.) When presenting the task, focus on the end result, the shared goal, or any kudos or rewards they may earn upon completion. Or, if they’re going to be doing the delegated task just to help you out, be sure to let them know how greatly their help will be appreciated.
Once the tasks are done, be sure to give high fives and recognition. Try to make the praise public—letting the whole office know of your co-workers excellent contribution, for example, or making a special announcement at dinner that certain family members were extremely helpful. Focusing on the great job people do and the fabulous end result makes people glad they helped, and more excited to take on new responsibilities in the future.
When I say ‘relax’, I mean that in the stress management sense (it’s my job!) as well as the perfectionism sense of the word. If you allow others to help you and then relax your standards of perfection a little when it comes to their performance, you’ll be much more successful at delegating tasks, and you’ll have more cooperative people to delegate to! (Need things to be perfect? Go back to Step 1.)
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