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Delegating effectively

Delegation is the ability to assign tasks to others in the team. For patient group leaders delegation can be difficult to master at first as many patient group leaders are also founders and will be used to being the sole worker behind a patient group. This means it can be difficult to give up control of tasks that they are used to doing themselves in their own way. However as organisations grow delegation is a very important leadership skill to develop to make sure everything can be achieved faster and by team members who are well equipped to do so.

Delegation is a big part of leadership and creating self sufficient teams as it ensures workload is properly assigned and tasks are completed by those most able and suited to them whilst employees feel valued as they are tasked with key responsibilities and tasks. Leaders who try and do everything themselves not only cause themselves unnecessary stress but also imply that they do not trust their team to carry out tasks. This is not conducive to a positive workplace culture.

Some methods of improving the delegation process are:

  • The first step of effective delegation is learning to let go of this control by having trust in the abilities of your team, this will happen if the right tasks are given to individuals who’s strength lies in that area, making them the most suitable person for the job and minimising the fear of loss of control.
  • Set responsibilities for individual team members. If team members have well defined job roles and responsibilities this makes delegating the right tasks to the right people a lot easier. Job roles and responsibilities should be clear and understood by everyone and tasks should be assigned in a clear way through regular meetings and communication, so all team members know what their workload entails.
  • Include instructions. Even if a task is obvious to you, another team member may be unfamiliar with it therefore it is important that tasks are properly explained when delegated to others so that individuals are able to complete tasks on their own moving forward.
  • Teach new skills. Instead of avoiding delegation due to a lack of the appropriate skills in the team, it is worth investing in skills through training or mentoring schemes. This can ensure team members are as well-equipped as they can be to complete tasks on their own.
  • Trust but verify. Once a task is delegated, trust your teammate to execute it their own terms. This will allow the person to tackle the work they feel is best. However, don’t be afraid to occasionally step in and verify that the task is moving along as planned. For example, if you made an assignment a week ago that’s due tomorrow, trust that your employee is on top of things, but send a quick verification email to make sure the person hasn’t hit any snags. Doing so encourages more trust and respect within your team and helps prevent breaks in communication or understanding.
  • Use feedback. Feedback is the most important part of the delegation process, and it works both ways. If your workers have done well with a task you assigned, let them know by publicly thanking them and offering genuine praise. If they’ve fallen short, don’t be afraid to give them some constructive criticism. On the other hand, invite your workers to share their thoughts on how you’re delegating–it’s a critical chance for you to determine whether you’re providing enough information, or whether you’re assigning the right tasks to the right people.


How to prioritise efficiently

The effective prioritisation of tasks is very important for good leadership. This involves recognising what really needs to be done to make progress and what deadlines are flexible and which simply are not. Prioritisation can sometimes be difficult though as we may naturally prefer to do tasks we like doing more than ones that really need to be done, and when we have large work loads it can be difficult to differentiate tasks and decide which ones are most important in the long run. It can be useful to utilise tools such as priority matrixes to visualise where your priorities should be, and which tasks can be delegated to others in the team.

These steps are helpful when starting to prioritise tasks:

  1. Collect a list of all your tasks. Put everything together that you would consider doing in a day. Don’t worry about the order at this point.
  2. Identify urgent vs. important. See if any of the tasks you have compiled need urgent attention or have deadlines approaching. This is also any work that will have negative consequences if not done by the end of the day.
  3. Assess value. Identify what carries the highest value to your organisation. This should be put above other tasks especially if it is helping you to make progress with key goals and objectives.
  4. Order tasks by estimated effort. If your tasks that are the same level of priority, assess which one will take more effort and do that one first.
  5. Be flexible and adaptable. Uncertainty and change are a given. Know that priorities will change and often when you least expect them to. Being expectant of change will make it less surprising when it actually occurs and will make you better prepared to change your priorities quickly.
  6. Know when to cut. You probably can’t get to everything on your list. After you have prioritised your tasks, cut the remaining ones from your weekly list and try focus on them at a less busy day.

A priority matrix like the one below is really easy to use if you want to visualise what work needs doing and what is less important. The urgent and important category is where you should put most of your effort whilst most work in the ‘not important’ category should be delegated to someone else if urgent and deleted if it is not useful at all.


Time management

A key element of successful prioritisation is good time management. Leaders must adopt good time management as they often have to divide their attention between a range of tasks in the same time frame. Thus, it is important that they factor in enough time to do the most important tasks and keep up to date with their teams and people who help the organisation. Sometimes it is difficult to manage all your tasks to a T when leading a patient group as some projects are dependent on external variables and stakeholders. However for tasks within your control you may find good time management easier if other elements of your workload are organised. Here are some tips for fostering good time management:

  • Have a short list of your priorities. It may be helpful to write a to do list at the start of the week and then further divide this into daily lists. Make sure you break down larger projects into smaller tasks that need doing, this will help tasks to be broken down in a manageable way.
  • Give yourself clear deadlines. At the start of projects try have an idea of when you want certain elements to be done by. This can sometimes be difficult for rare disease projects as deadlines can often be changeable and may be pushed back or forward depending on a variety of factors.
  • Organise emails. To stop you spending too much time in your inbox it can be useful to organise your emails in terms of categories or importance, this helps save time searching for specific emails that can get lost and helps to visually show what tasks demand more time and attention. Most email providers now have the option to assign labels to different emails, alternatively you can set ‘rules’ which will categorise them automatically for you.
  • Use calendars, wisely. Rather than having multiple calendars on your computer, phone and paper just use one and record everything on there. There are many online platforms such as which allow you to have calendars for individual projects and tasks associated with them. Meanwhile many online calendars now allow you to overlap ‘work’ and ‘personal’ calendars to allow you to visualise your time commitments even better.
  • Figure out what tasks you find easier to do and when. If you are more productive in the mornings, then use that time to do tasks that require more thought and effort and leave the emails until the afternoon. Alternatively if you find your concentration wanes in the afternoon then try and make your working times for flexible to fit this. It is also important to take regular breaks as this helps maintain alertness and energy. More work hours don’t always mean more productivity and sometimes shorter periods with breaks in between can actually be more productive.

Make meetings more efficient to save time:

  • Clarify your goals at the start of the meeting. To keep meetings on track and save time it is useful to clarify the objective of the meeting, so everyone is clear of the aims and what they are hoping to get out of the meeting.
  • Book meetings for less time that you think they will take. If extra time is available, people will be more likely to stretch to that time. Whereas if there is a sense of urgency then things will be covered more concisely, and people are more likely up wrap up their points quicker than waste time. If meetings are important for brainstorming then this may necessitate a longer time frame, it can just be useful to adapt the length of meeting to what you are hoping to achieve.