10 ways to master the tricky art of delegation

Running a small design studio is fantastic. You get to do a bit of everything… But when your studio grows, things change. It's the same when you're elevated to management – in an art director or creative director position, for example.

Suddenly, doing a little of everything isn't sustainable for you as one of the leaders in the studio, and you need to delegate. For many in the industry, that's one of the toughest nuts to crack. But it's essential, for your studio – or team – to grow.

"Classic business growth – employing more and more people – can only happen if those people are managed properly," says David Parrish, a management consultant specialising in helping design and media companies grow.

"This means that the business owner has to make the transition from working 'in' the business to working 'on' the business," he adds.

Realising when it's time to delegate is a start. "If you're overburdened, at breaking point and can't see the wood for the trees, while your team are fairly relaxed, you're way past the right time to delegate,' says Taxi's Spencer Buck.

From setting a brief to giving feedback, read on for 10 cardinal delegation dos and don'ts – and for an expert guide on the essential art of delegation, have a look at Computer Arts issue 250.

10 ways to delegate like a pro

how to delegate

Illustration: Adam Avery
  1. Do set the goals and then get out of the way.
  2. Don't meddle. Yes, you're passionate about design and about your business, but nothing undermines staff more than having their boss pull the rug out from under them each time they find something challenging.
  3. Do determine before you delegate what success will look like, and communicate that to the individual or team.
  4. Don't ever feel as though delegating something and supporting the person doing that task isn't proper work. Delegation and managing people is a valid and valuable use of your time.
  5. Do take the time to give a clear and proper brief, and agree when and how the work will be reviewed.
  6. Don't become a back-seat designer.
  7. Do accept that people will fail, but they will learn from it – just as you did earlier in your career.
  8. Don't rush it when giving feedback. A quick response might seem like it will save everyone's time, but make sure it's not a knee-jerk reaction. Being negative when something's not working is easy, but it won't necessarily solve the problem.
  9. Do embrace the big picture, and make sure everybody else has what they need from you to get on with their work before you focus on individual tasks.
  10. Don't delegate anything that doesn't play to the skills of the person you're delegating it to. What would be the point of that?

The full version of this article first appeared inside Computer Arts issue 250, as part of an expert industry article on the tricky art of delegation, How to Delegate Effectively.

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