Product managers tend to focus on tangible, hard skills that directly correspond with their role. While this may lead to results, such an approach overlooks an entire spectrum of soft skills that enhance your ability to interact with your team.
One of the most important of these skills is delegation. Knowing how to distribute responsibilities with clear communication and accountability boosts quality and productivity within a team.
In this article, you will learn what delegation is, how to use it, and strategies for effectively incorporating it within your role.
Delegation is the act of assigning tasks or responsibilities to another person. For product managers specifically, delegation is the cornerstone of a functional and balanced multidisciplinary team.
By delegating effectively, you empower your colleagues by allowing them to focus on what they are best at. Simultaneously, you ensure that you stay focused on your core competencies as a PM.
Learning how to delegate requires trust and takes time to develop. However, the higher you climb the management ladder, the more it is necessary to delegate.
Delegation empowers people. When you allow your team members to take ownership of what they are good at, they’re able to become more invested in their work and deliver results.
Additionally, delegation can improve a group’s productivity. When the proper process and guardrails are in place, all team members are focused on their areas of expertise. This means that work can progress faster without sacrificing quality output or collaboration.
As a PM, delegation means having more time and energy to allocate to activities that no one else on your team can do, such as market research, competitor analysis, prioritization, and creating and following KPIs. Delegation enables better product positioning, a stronger competitive advantage, and, ultimately, a more successful product.
Unless your team suffers from crippling deficits, you shouldn’t have to do things outside of your scope. However, since PMs own the overall performance of a product, they often take on the work of struggling team members as a defense mechanism.
This hurts both you and the product. Not holding individuals accountable actively deprives the product of an empowered and accountable team behind it. Make sure that you receive the value that you need from your team members so that you trust them to accomplish the task at hand.
As a product manager, you should delegate tasks to the individuals, paying attention to the specific technical skills needed. For instance, implementation and architectural decisions should be left to the tech lead, who possesses the required expertise and knowledge to make informed choices in this domain.
You aren’t forbidden from assisting a particular subset of the product, but keep in mind where your responsibilities lie. Delegating requires you to adopt a mindset of “letting go” and trust that your team members are best suited to handle their role.
Delegation can easily turn into negligence if you don’t pay attention to some key rules. You should commit to sharing responsibilities, empowering team members, and collectively accomplishing more.
Pay attention to these three rules when delegating:
Clear communication is essential when delegating. Ensure that everyone starts on the same page by setting up specific expectations and objectives. People can’t engage with what they don’t understand and want to know why they’re assigned a task.
Sharing responsibilities requires you still hold a part of the whole picture. Keep a bird’s eye view on the product and review what your team members share. Providing support during delegated projects is vital to ensure success and to build trust with your colleagues.
Offering constructive and honest feedback helps close the delegation loop by making sure that team members feel accounted for. Feedback facilitates continuous learning and progressively increases the team’s confidence in their own empowerment.
Even with these rules, there are some pitfalls that even more experienced product managers might fall into. Keep your eye out for the following three signs to avoid your delegation becoming a nightmare:
If you find that you prefer to do things alone or that you struggle to trust your team members, you might be at risk for developing micromanagement tendencies. Micromanagers pay excessive attention to small details and take control of the tasks of their subordinates.
This management style can lead to a loss of efficiency due to bottleneck processes and team disintegration. People hate being treated like puppets. Constantly involving yourself in your team’s work will destroy any possibility of having a healthy relationship with your team.
Without team synergy, you cannot have a good product. You need to learn to become comfortable stepping back and allowing your team to perform their role.
Sometimes you have to deal with an underperforming team member. Not all teams are made up of stars and some have several weak links. Delegating requires you to make them accountable.
As the one delegating, you must make sure that the outcomes of your decisions put the team first. If you feel like the rest of the team can’t handle things, try to start delegating little by little so that those who are weaker have time and experience to become stronger.
When delegating, it’s not just about your workload; it’s also about other people’s workload. Delegating to someone that already has their hands full leads to failure and burnout.
Often, you need to delegate because you’re understaffed. Hiring is a slow and expensive process, so you or someone else on your team may have to temporarily assume responsibilities until you can bring someone else into the role.
Always think of the best interests of your entire team; don’t just use delegation to make your job easier.
As a product manager, mastering delegation is the most important skill you can develop to create an empowered and accountable team.
Set clear expectations, provide support, offer honest feedback, be mindful of the risks of micromanagement, and understand your team’s capabilities and availability. Keep these in the back of your head and trust your team enough to let go.
Learning how to delegate effectively will not only lead to better products, but also provide opportunities for personal development for yourself and your team members.
Featured image source: IconScout
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