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How To Delegate Difficult Tasks Like A Pro

Julie Lord

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As a project manager, you need to delegate - it's a key part of your job. All project management training courses cover effective delegation, and that's because it is such an integral part of being a PM - so it's something you need to be OK with from the get go.

However, delegating can be a difficult thing to do when you have to push your team and perhaps ask them to go above and beyond what they would usually be expected to do. The world would be wonderful if everyone volunteered for difficult tasks willingly and continually sought self improvement, but the world doesn't work that way sadly.

In order for your team members to take on additional tasks they may not be comfortable with or happy doing, you must be able to help them see the task in a positive light. There isn't one particular way to delegate tasks without getting some resistance, but there are a few simple ways to minimise the chances of this happening. So before you have a full mutiny on your hands, read these tips to help you delegate in the best possible way:

How Does It Benefit The Team Member

We're all pretty selfish when it comes down to it, and most of us want to know how doing anything benefits us. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's good to recognise that trait in people because it means you can gain insight into how to approach delegation. It doesn't actually matter why you want the task done, no matter how emotional or important the reasons. If your team member simply doesn't want to do it or feels it is pointless, they might give you resistance. You need to put yourself in their shoes and think about what would make them want to do the project. Have they mentioned wanting to gain new skills? Perhaps they want a promotion? Whatever that particular team member wants to achieve, you need to explain how this particular task contributes to that ambition.

Explain The Benefits

You need to pop your sales hat on and really go for it on explaining the benefits of this particular task. Just because you know why this task is important, doesn't mean the employee does. Explain how it gives the team member more authority or control of the project management framework , how it enables them to network with important people outside of the organisation, or how it enables them to ‘shine’ when they may have previously had their work overlooked. Don't be afraid to appeal to their emotional side, you're in full sales mode.

Delegate In The Right Environment

It's important how you delegate but also where and when. Choose your moment carefully and try to avoid scenarios that may count against your chance of getting a yes. For example; asking the team member when they are knee deep in another task and stressed about an upcoming milestone is not a good time. Choose a quiet place so they don't feel pressured by people looking on and do it at a time they feel relaxed and comfortable. Be open and clearly outline what the task is before you get to the benefits, and give the team member time to ask questions and talk to you. Rushing your ‘pitch’ in a stressful and loud environment will guarantee you some resistance.

Don't Just Drop The Bomb And Run

One of the worst things you can do is explain a mammoth task to a team member, scare the life out of them and then run off. One of the biggest concerns your team member will have is whether or not they are able to complete the task. Tell them that you know they are capable and explain to them how the task fits into their already large workload. You should also go that bit further and explain how you will be flexible with deadlines if necessary and explain how you can help with the task - basically sweeten the deal.

Remember, stay positive and never just rush into delegating a task if you know it's above and beyond what a team member would normally do. You will get more yes's if you simply take the time to approach the asking properly. Feel like you need more training on delegation? Book yourself onto some project management courses and improve your skillset, it could be just the boost your career needs.


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