Historically, developers have held ‘lone wolf’ status. The image of these techies tap, tap, tapping away in silo have dominated our ideas of what being a developer looks like.
These days, this couldn’t be further from the truth; most devs and programmers must work in teams. Teamwork and its related skills are high up on the “must-have” skills on any Developer job description.
Although a developer must possess those technical “hard” skills that make doing the job possible, they must also have a cache of “soft” skills in their back pocket. If you are the leader of a dev team the need for the “soft” skillset ramps up a notch.
Among this falls the skill of delegation. It is probable most managers and team members have struggled with delegation in the past. For managers, you may be wondering “how do I delegate fairly?”, “How do I delegate without being bossy?” or even “Am I being assertive enough?”.
There is a balance to be struck where tasks can be delegated in an inclusive and empowering way without making colleagues feeling like they are picking up all the jobs you don’t want to do.
Despite these uncertainties, delegation is an essential component of any successful team. Knowing how to delegate tasks, and how to receive delegation are skills that that will make your daily work more productive, enjoyable and task focussed.
This post aims to help clarify what healthy delegation looks like, and how you can become a top delegator of tasks.
Delegation is commonly believed to be “being told what to do” by your boss. While on a very base level, this could be considered delegation, it is not the most positive interpretation of the term.
The site “Smartbrief” defines delegation as “the shifting of authority and responsibility for particular functions, tasks or decisions from one person (usually a leader or manager) to another.”
This definition is very different from the popularly held belief that is simply “being told what to do”. It isn’t the same as assigning an employee work which is his or her duty. Nor is it handing out the unwanted or unpleasant tasks that you – as the team lead – don’t want to do!
What delegation is.
Delegation is a management technique that allows managers to share work within a team. It needs to be done in such a way that
- Develops junior employees by giving them more complicated or challenging tasks than those they’d usually be assigned.
- Coaches employees across levels and types of expertise to broaden skillsets, reinforce abilities and strengthen developer abilities.
- Directs the team to complete the full range of tasks required using an “all hands on deck” mindset; junior developers aren’t waiting in the wings, while experienced colleagues aren’t overburdened or overworked.
- Creates better workflow and time-specific deliverables based on what needs doing now and in the future.
What delegation isn’t.
Delegation isn’t the dictatorial giving away of tasks mindlessly, based on seniority or the lack of desire to do something. Nor is it the shirking of tasks on a developer manager’s personal to-do list in order to abdicate personal responsibility.
The principles of delegation.
Summarising the lists above, delegation is based on 3 key principles.
- Ensuring the individuals are working effectively as a team.
- Ensuring that every dev on the team is as strong a dev as possible
- Ensuring that the work is completed effectively using the resources at your disposal.
Have these principles at the front of your mind as you assign tasks, and you will soon reap the rewards of your thoughtful delegation.
How can I start delegating well?
Developers who have recently gained manager or lead status may be unsure of how to begin a healthy delegation practice. You may be worried about appearing lazy or even unsure about HOW to ask a colleague to complete a task.
Here are some tips for those who are new to the skill set or are unsure of how to delegate well.
You may consider starting by handing out small tasks. Look at the entire project and create a priority list. Once you have the list, start by delegating the low-priority tasks at the bottom.
Be (or assign) a mentor.
It stands to reason that not every member of your team will be at the same stage of their career. To facilitate delegation success, mentorship and delegation need to go hand in hand. Initially, you may need to ensure that the receivers of the task can take on what’s being handed over. This will empower the more junior members and ensure that they are both supported and challenged.
Get your hands dirty.
You will need to be a player and a coach to the person you delegate a task to. By spending a proportion of your time ‘up-front’, the person you delegate work to will gain an understanding of the right way to complete the assigned task.
Choose the right person for each task.
When delegating technical tasks, it is crucial you look at the whole team and choose the right person for the job. Assigning the task to the right person will save you time and make sure that it is completed effectively. Remember, the right person may not be the obvious person. Your newest recruit may have some technical know how your most seasoned developer hasn’t!
Look to the future.
There is a balance to be met between what you need to deliver now, and what you may need in the future. When delegating tasks, try to think ahead a little. Envision what people COULD become with the right faith, coaching and opportunity.
Think back to your early career…the tasks that seemed too big…too challenging…outside your comfort zone. Those were the ones that shaped you and gave you the confidence to try new things. Your ‘can do’ attitude is a sum of those opportunities. Effective delegation gives this to others.
- Delegation is a “soft skill’ essential for effective leadership.
- Done correctly, delegation fosters a working environment that increases skills and harnesses inclusivity.
- There are 3 key principles of delegation that are based on the team and those within it meeting their full potential.
- Ways to delegate effectively include prioritising tasks, mentorship and coaching, leading from the front and choosing the right person for the job.
- Used well, supported delegation is a key tool for professional development.