How to Delegate Tasks as a Project Manager
You’re not one of those Project Managers that act like a jerk. At least you would like to think you’re not. We’ve all seen that type of Project Manager. This is the Project Manager that barks out commands at everyone all day long. They walk around with a scowl on their face and a dark cloud over their heart. They are mad at everyone, disappointed with everything, and a genuinely unpleasant person.
But you’re not that type of Project Manager, are you? Why is it that some Project Managers end up this way?
It’s not that their job is that much harder than the person next to them, it may just be that they haven’t learned how to effectively delegate tasks as a Project Manager. As a result, they have allowed the work to pile up on themselves. This results in the unrelenting heat from upper management that occurs when projects aren’t done on time or under budget. As a matter of course, this heat then cascades to everyone else on the project team.
How can you effectively delegate tasks as a Project Manager and not end up acting like a jerk?
Why Some May Find it Hard to Delegate Tasks
To understand why some Project Managers end up in the unenviable position of doing way too much work themselves, we have to understand how they get into that position. Some find it hard to delegate tasks for a number of reasons. The following are a few of these reasons:
It May Not be Your Style to Delegate
It may not be your style to ask other people to do work. “Wait a minute,” you may say…“aren’t you a Project Manager? Isn’t that a HUGE part of your job to tell others what to do?”. Yes and no. There are a number of paths people may have come up before they arrived at the job of Project Manager. They may have been a person that was an extremely effective organizer. Or, they may have been highly proficient in a particularly technical aspect of their job. These two skills sets would lend themselves to being a Project Manager. They may have also found that they were the only person for the job and they jumped into do the best they could do.
Regardless, they may not be the type of person that is used to telling others what to do and delegating tasks. This may be compounded by the admittedly noble, yet somewhat naïve view that they won’t ask someone to do something they won’t do themselves.
If the above describes you…then get over it…and fast! You need to become very comfortable and confident with telling others what to do. They expect that from you as a Project Manager. They are looking for someone to let them know what they did right, what they did wrong, and what is next on the schedule to bring this project to completion.
There used to be a time many years ago that I would sit next to a resource for moral support until the wee hours of the morning because I couldn’t find it in myself to leave them behind while I went home as they finished up a particular task they got behind on. Admirable? Possibly. Necessary? Absolutely not!
When I dug down deep into why I felt I needed to do that, I found many times it had to do with a feeling of guilt that maybe I didn’t plan the project carefully enough, or didn’t see a particular risk coming and it threw things off track. As the years passed and my experience grew I realized that wasn’t the case. There were plenty of times I was there late into the evening, or before the sun came up in the morning …and nobody else was. I paid my dues (and more) just like everyone else and should feel very comfortable with delegating tasks to them to do their job.
You Can Do it Better Yourself
This is a very slippery slope to start going down, especially when you are proficient at whatever it is that you are delegating for someone else to accomplish. You may have done that other person’s job for years and know how to do it inside and out. This poor soul has only been doing it for a year and certainly doesn’t understand the intricacies and nuances of that particular task the way you do! So…you ask them to move out of the way so you can take their place and just do it yourself. This is not an effective way to delegate tasks as a Project Manager. Why? Four words…It Does Not Scale. Are you going to do this task for this person every time? Are you going to do this task for the next person that needs to do it along with doing the first person’s task as well? You can see how quickly this will get out of control and distract you from your job of managing the project.
Sure, you probably can do it better yourself. But, ask yourself, does it HAVE to be done that particular way? Is the end result just as acceptable if someone else does it a slightly different way? I’m sure you already know the answer to these questions. More often than not, how a task is performed is a matter of personal preference as much as it’s a matter of HAVING to do it a particular way. Give your resources some breathing room to do it their way. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. Will this take a longer time in the short-term? You better believe it. But the exponential return on this investment in the future will make this decision a no-brainer.
You Can do it Faster Yourself
This is a variation on the theme above of being able to do it better yourself, but with a slight twist. It’s going to take 5 days to train a new person on a particular task that you know will only take 2 days to complete. There’s never enough time put into the schedule for training, so you fall into the trap of doing it yourself…over and over again. At some point you need to stand up and say that it’s not going to be done this way anymore and the time spent on training will pay off substantial dividends in the future.
How to Delegate Tasks as a Project Manager
Once you have overcome your concerns of delegating tasks to others, you will soon find that your effectiveness as a Project Manager skyrockets. Be very clear in your expectations. Let others know that you are going to operate in a particular way when it comes to delegating tasks. You will do everything you can to clear obstacles out of the way or make their job as easy as possible, but ultimately it comes down to them finishing the task that they have been assigned.
Help them pick the ball up again if they have dropped it, but don’t take the ball from them and run with it. Help them come up with a plan of action for getting the job done. This may require pulling in other resources, creative scheduling or a combination of both. This way they will realize it is ultimately theirs to complete and not something they can quickly (and many times unnecessarily) turn over to you to do.
Finally, reward those who see a task from beginning to end with minimal intervention from you.
Let’s face it…we can all be jerks from time to time. But, if you’ve done your part of learning how to effectively delegate tasks as a Project Manager you will find that you’ll be that much easier and effective to work with!
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