You know, as a manager, you should delegate.  Maybe you need to because your to do list is no longer something you can conquer alone.  Or perhaps you want to develop your team members, give them more challenging work to do.

But you look across the office and see how stretched they are.  How do you delegate when your team is too busy to take on more?

Here are some things to consider.

Are they working on the important stuff?

Liane Davey from ‘You First’

What are your team working on?  You may be surprised.  Maybe Sarah is still diligently cranking out that weekly report that no one has read for months.  Or perhaps Sam is being pulled into work that should be undertaken by a different team.

How can you help them clear their workload for the important work?  They could be busy with work that doesn’t really matter.

How can you lighten the load?

Look hard at your actions.  Are you making them busier than they need to be?  What can you introduce into your team to free up some time in their schedule?

Email-free times

The curse of email.  It has been proven that if you are distracted from doing one task (let’s say writing a report) by something (like an email notification), it can take 14 minutes to get back into the flow when you return to the original task.  That’s a lot of lost time.

But it’s hard to ignore email when you feel people are expecting you to respond immediately.

Could you communicate to the rest of the business that your team will not be responding to email between 10am-12pm (for example)?  This gives them undistracted time to focus on important work and make decent progress.  But make sure they turn off their email notifications!

Designated time to focus

In addition to the email-free time, how about making some ‘do not disturb’ time.  This is time when team members don’t interrupt each other with those ‘have you got a second?’ questions.  I know it is difficult to stop people outside of your team wandering over.  However, coach your team members to protect this time.  A quick response of ‘I’m focused on this until 2pm.  Can we chat after that?’ can work wonders.

Better meeting management

Look at the meetings that are within your control to change.

  • Can you reduce  their frequency?
  • Could you shorten their length?  Try it.  See if you can accomplish the same in a focused 45 minutes as you can in an hour.
  • Are they still relevant?  Could you cancel any?
  • Is the attendee list correct?  Do you really need that many people involved?
  • Do you have clear agendas?
  • Do you exercise extreme focus on the desired outcomes?
  • Do you have tight time management?  Starting and finishing on time?

What would it look like if it was simple?

Look at all their deliverables – is there a simpler way of doing things? For example, do you really need that report or         would a quick email do the same job?

What energises them?

You know what type of work gives you energy. The tasks you can fly through and enjoy what you are doing. Your team member may well be energised by different work than you but there will be something. Find out what that is.

If your team member is working on tasks that don’t energise them, they will naturally take them longer. (Give me a spreadsheet to analyse, for example, and my productivity levels will half!)

It’s not always possible, but look at whether you can reassign the tasks that drain them to someone else. Don’t forget the thing that zaps their energy, may very well re-energise their team mate.

Are they being efficient?

When you are feeling overwhelmed, you never feel at your most efficient, do you?  Your team will be the same.  Check out this post on how to stay productive when you’re feeling overwhelmed and the free training that could save your team hours in their week.

The difference between busy and productive

When you start looking more closely at how they are working, you may notice that ‘busy’ is not always ‘productive’.  Helping your team focus on the right things, in the right way will have a positive impact on their workload.   This enables you to share out your work that will make that positive impact on the business.