Debbie Johnson

Why Today’s PR Professionals Need Delegation Skills

By: Debbie Johnson | November 29, 2017 | 
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pr delegationI started my career as a journalist.

In newsrooms, everyone is part of a team.

While there are assigned roles (producer, reporter, assignment editor, etc.), there are moments (breaking news or holidays, when a skeleton crew mans the newsroom) which require delegation skills to get the newscast on the air.

I was used to that scenario when I moved into public relations work.

But I quickly learned PR was different.

I often encountered bosses and colleagues who, for reasons of their own, had no interest in delegating work.

This is silly and counterproductive.

A successful public relations professional knows it is important to have delegation skills and knows how to use them.

Want to Get Work Done? Use Your Delegation Skills

Some people refuse to delegate.

They believe they’re the only ones who can get the job done, or their work is better than everyone else’s.

Author Jeffrey Pfeffer calls this “self-enhancement bias.”

I used to be like that.

Then I realized I was overworked, overwhelmed, and always behind.

If I wanted to meet deadlines and produce quality work, I was going to have to stop thinking I could do everything and start learning how to delegate.

Even Richard Branson delegates.

I learned from a young age the art of delegation and that it is absolutely critical in my life and I believe it should be critical in anybody’s life.

We as public relations professionals can’t do everything, nor should we want to.

Accepting this reality is the first step to becoming successful at delegation.

Want Your Team to Trust You? Use Your Delegation Skills

Delegating isn’t just about getting work done.

It’s about leading a team and helping others to grow professionally.

But you can’t effectively lead a team if they don’t trust you.

Delegating creates trust.

You show your team you trust them by delegating work to them.

In turn, those employees will perform better because they know you have faith in them to get the job done.

There’s More ‘You’ Time When You Delegate

Using your delegation skills can help you grow professionally.

Interested in learning a new skill or taking on new duties so you can advance your career?

Delegate some of your current tasks, so you have time to take on new challenges.

We don’t just grow professionally by taking classes or managing new projects.

We also grow when we step away from work.

Want to take time off for a trip you’ve been dreaming about for years?

Use your delegation skills.

Doing this is one of the more important reasons for learning how to delegate effectively.

Everyone needs to take time off to recharge and rejuvenate.

Otherwise, you risk not only becoming unproductive but also becoming burnt out.

No public relations professional is effective when they are burnt out.

How to Delegate Effectively

2007 study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity found almost half of 332 companies surveyed had concerns about their employees’ ability to delegate effectively.

Learning to delegate effectively takes effort, and everyone has their own style.

Here is what works for me:

  • Explain the task. You can’t just assign a task and walk away. You need to explain the assignment and define your expectations.
  • Make sure the right people are focused on the right tasks. Not everyone is right for every role. To be successful at delegating, you need to make sure you are giving the right opportunities to the right people.
  • Engage those you delegated to. Even if you did a great job of explaining the assignment and gave it to the right person, that doesn’t mean your work is done. Don’t be afraid to check in and ask how things are going and if anyone needs help.
  • Be patient. Someone taught you. Now it’s your turn to teach others. Delegating work is a great way to do this. To be effective at delegating, you’re going to have to be a teacher. And this requires time–and patience.

Treat delegation as professional development.

Study delegation skills and techniques and learn from others.

Take classes or webinars to learn effective delegation.

Ask for feedback on what you did well when you delegated and where you need to improve.

Delegating isn’t a License to Micromanage

There is a difference between delegating work and micromanaging someone.

And that requires using your delegation skills in learning to let go.

According to Jarrett Gorlin, CEO of Medovex:

Micromanaging stunts productivity and can act as a cancer within an organization. Employee morale matters, everyone wants to know they are appreciated, and it’s not always about the money. Treat your employees well, and they will treat the company well.

While letting go is important, you must also recognize those moments when someone needs help.

I once delegated an assignment to a direct report and a colleague.

It was a task they hadn’t performed before, but I was confident I had explained the assignment well, and they said they understood the assignment’s perimeters.

In an attempt to avoid micromanaging, I swung the pendulum too far the other way.

I gave the impression I wasn’t available to help or answer questions, and the person went to another manager because they were afraid to ask me for help.

While I trusted my team to get the job done, I should have checked in with them to see how the project was going and if they had questions.

As I stated earlier, it’s important to engage those to whom you delegate tasks.

I did not do this, and as a result, I lost their trust and had to work hard to gain it back.

Two-way communication is important in delegating effectively.

It’s not micromanaging.

And that was a painful way to learn the difference.

Not Using your Delegation Skills is a Sign of Insecurity

I once had a boss who refused to delegate any work to me, despite obvious signs he was overwhelmed and dropping the ball.

Every day I would ask him, “is there anything I can help you with?” and he would always tell me “no.”

It took me awhile to realize he was doing this because he was insecure and felt the only way he could show his value to the organization was by doing everything himself.

Confident public relations professionals trust their team and therefore can delegate work without worrying about it negatively impacting their careers.

If you don’t delegate, you risk losing good team members.

The lack of delegation was one of the factors in my decision to leave that job.

I went on to work for a confident boss who delegated work to me and took an interest in helping me advance my PR career.

Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans, So Delegate!

This famous John Lennon song was pretty much my mantra after my father’s diagnosis of cancer.

While I was grateful to work for an organization that gave me the flexibility to work remotely so I could help care for him, there were moments when even that flexibility wasn’t enough.

I had to delegate at times so I could focus on my family.

You can’t work well and do your best job when you’re facing distractions.

In moments like that, you need to put your delegation skills to use.

It’s the best thing to do for your organization, your work, and yourself.

The best public relations professionals realize this.

Learn to delegate.

There may be times in life when you have no choice, and no one should need to learn how to delegate under those circumstances.

How do you use your delegation skills? Please share in the comments below.

About Debbie Johnson


Debbie Johnson is a veteran communications professional with a background in public affairs, media relations and crisis management. When she's not working, she can be found reading a good novel, writing in her journals, or training for her upcoming marathon.

  • I love this, “Delegating is about leading a team and helping others to grow professionally.”

    Great article, Debbie. Very good reminders to keep in mind even for the smallest tasks.

    • Debbie Johnson

      It took me a long time to get that. It wasn’t until I worked for someone who refused to delegate that I saw the big picture and changed my ways.

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