5 tips for better delegation

No leader can do everything him or herself. Instead, leaders delegate work to others so they can free up time to spend it somewhere really valuable. But effective delegation requires a significant investment, including the cost of hiring and training others.

In a recent study, Thomas N. Hubbard, PhD, a professor of management and strategy at Evanston, Ill.-based Northwestern's Kellogg School of Business, and co-author Luis Garicano, PhD, sought to quantify the returns of delegation, according to the Harvard Business Review.

The authors used data from thousands of law offices on how much partners make, how many associates work with them and how much those associates and other staff cost the firm in salary and benefits. They then combined this data with an economic model to estimate how much lawyers benefit when they delegate work to associates.

According to their findings, the median partner in a law firm earns 20 percent more when they delegate to associates than they otherwise would, and top lawyers — who have the greatest skill to leverage — earn at least 50 percent more.

Here are five tips to consider for better delegation, according to Dr. Hubbard and Dr. Garicano.

1. Be aware of constraints on your time. If you are feeling swamped, it's probably a sign you are not delegating enough. If parts of your workload are particularly routine, they could be good candidates for delegation.

2. Set realistic expectations. The employees you delegate to don't need to have all of the same skills or knowledge as you, but if they can handle a small share of your work, then delegating is worth while.

3. The greater your expertise, the greater your staff needs to be. If you plan on delegating more complicated problems and tasks, you will need a larger and more skilled staff.

4. Develop an efficient delegation process. The point of delegating is to optimize your time. It's useless to delegate if you have to then spend time managing the process. An efficient delegation process includes clear communication, minimal time spent in meetings and a system of checking your employees' work.

5. Invest in resources that make delegation seamless. Don't skimp on resources or technology that can increase coordination and make delegation easier.

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