The art of delegation

Delegation is a key part of many creative roles, especially for management. However, it is a skill in itself, even though it is typically not viewed in this way. Indeed, it’s a skill that many people struggle with. There’s an assumption that once you become a senior manager, you must be good at delegation. But this is not always the case.

Like any skill, if you want to become better at delegation, you need to specifically work on honing your talents in this area. So, this blog post discusses the art of delegation and what managers in the creative industry can do to become better delegates for the benefit of the whole team.

Why is delegation so important?

One issue that many creative agencies seem to struggle with in particular is staff retention. This presents an issue as hiring and rehiring staff again and again is a very costly process, which isn’t good for agencies who are hoping to become more profitable. It can also have a negative impact on company culture. If there are constantly new faces, creating a cohesive culture can be difficult as nobody knows how long the new people are going to stick around for. The problem goes round in circles: staff retention is poor, which causes a weak company culture, which entices even more people to leave, and so on…

But what has this got to do with delegation? Well, you have probably heard the saying that ‘people don’t leave a company, they leave their boss,’ or something to that effect. I believe this to be true in the creative industry. I don’t think that many creative agencies are truly ‘bad’ places to work themselves, but lots still have poor rates of staff retention. 

There are usually a few reasons for this. For example, there is often an expectation within agencies that staff will stay late to finish a project whenever this is necessary- which tends to be a lot of the time. Or, perhaps not enough thought is put into the onboarding process, so employees find it hard to feel fully settled or welcomed into the company and its culture. And of course, some will leave because they simply don’t like their manager or their management style. 

I believe that learning the art of delegation, and so becoming a stronger manager, can improve all of this. If a manager is a good delegator, work is often completed more efficiently and on time, leading to less late nights in the office. Furthermore, delegating the onboarding process effectively can vastly improve it, so new employees feel happier at work. Finally, often weaker management styles are just down to poor delegation.

I don’t want to generalise, but creative types (so, the sort of people who tend to work in creative agencies) don’t usually enjoy strict management styles. They don’t like being told what to do down to the last detail. Instead, they like to have more freedom to complete things in the way that makes the most sense for the project at hand.

However, poor delegation from managers often leads to this kind of micromanaging. Perhaps a manager doesn’t feel fully in control if they delegate things out. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Proper delegation allows staff creative freedom whilst ensuring things are completed efficiently and effectively. After all, most managers in creative agencies were once in the more creative roles of the staff they manage. So what goes wrong as they move up? Probably the fact that they don’t properly learn the art of delegation…

Top tips for delegation in creative agencies

What can be done about this problem? Well, it is never too late to learn a new skill, delegation included. Here are some tips for managers in creative agencies:

Firstly, assess the situation at hand. What is currently going on within your team? This means speaking to the people in your team and trying to find out what they really think. Sending out an anonymous survey may be a good idea to help with this. The aim is to find out whether your team members are being given the right tasks that play to their strengths. Are they being adequately supported in their roles? And, are they being pushed to reach their full potential?

Finding out the answers to these questions will go a long way in showing you how effective your delegation currently is, and what areas you may need to work on. For example, if team members feel that they are not being given the tasks that play to their strengths, then you need to work on honing in on what those strengths are for each individual, and making an effort to delegate out tasks that are better suited to them. 

As I have already touched upon, one of the biggest problems that can occur with poor delegation is micromanagement. Here, team members feel as though they have little creative freedom with a task, and that their manager does not trust them to complete work without being watched over.

If this is an issue, I recommend that managers, and creative agencies as a whole, focus on implementing leaner processes. In short, this means cutting back to only the processes that are truly necessary for a task or project to be completed. These processes should be clearly set out, known by everyone, and simple to follow. The effect is that work gets done efficiently, but creative freedom can still be expressed. For the team, the result is usually a happier work life where they feel more involved, valued, and in control. In other words, it is good delegation on the part of managers and the opposite of micromanagement. You can click here to read my blog post about implementing leaner processes in your creative agency and learn more about this topic.

Of course, truly mastering the art of delegation takes time for any manager to learn, and is likely never really done! However, by listening to your team’s feedback, taking the time to act upon it, and avoiding micromanagement, your creative agency should start to become more efficient, with happier teams, which can certainly help to boost profitability as a result.

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