Nobody does effective team coordination and effective delegation quite like the Avengers. Imagine coming together to defeat an enemy through collaboration and delegation of tasks based on individual strengths. Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Spider-Man, and the rest of the crew work together and bring their best traits to the table to help the team succeed.
Maybe you aren’t part of a team of superheroes like the Avengers in your day-to-day work life, but you can harness the same effective teamwork and delegation skills for successful team performance.
This post will cover:
- Why team coordination is important
- Tips for improving teamwork
- Effective delegation strategies
- How to become a solid delegator
- Tools we recommend for team coordination
Why Team Coordination is Important
Orchestrating the collective efforts of all team members toward a common goal requires harnessing everyone’s strengths, creating space for all individuals to share their perspectives, contributing to seamless communication, and minimizing duplicative efforts. Successful team coordination is the heart and soul of the most influential teams in the workplace.
Google conducted research known as Project Aristotle and found that effective teams are less about who is on the team and more about how a team works together. Ranked in order of importance: psychological safety, dependability, structure/clarity, meaning, and impact are the five key elements that impact a team’s effectiveness—all of which are part of team coordination and putting together different pieces of a puzzle (individuals) to create a complete picture.
Challenges of Team Coordination
Despite its importance and simplicity on paper, effective team coordination and managing high-performing project teams don’t come without hurdles. Navigating the challenges of team coordination requires a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in today’s work environment. Below are some of the common challenges of team coordination you should keep top of mind.
A lack of clarity and unclear responsibilities
There’s little to no room for vague and ambiguous roles and responsibilities in the workplace, especially when you work closely with your team. When team members don’t understand what their leader wants from them or misinterpret the task, it will lead to inefficiencies, frustration, workflow issues, and incomplete outcomes. Unclear responsibilities are a surefire way to create duplicative work or neglect critical components of a project overall. It’s crucial to prioritize clarity to set your team up for success.
Pro-tip: To combat this challenge, set up a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) matrix for every team task or project. This helps ensure the right people are brought in for the right activities and leaves no room to guess who is responsible for what. Well-defined roles are a must!
Image source: Asana
Absence of trust
Trust is the glue that binds individual team members together and enables them to collaborate, share ideas, and, most importantly—lean into one another to work toward a common goal. When trust is absent within a team, everyone suffers. Individuals hesitate to communicate openly with one another, and they may even make decisions without consulting everyone on the team to avoid conflict. When team members don’t trust others’ work quality, they might hoard the work, leading to burnout and resentment. Or they might share the work but micromanage the individual doing it, causing conflict amongst team members. Lack of trust erodes team morale, hinders productivity, and decreases employee engagement overall.
Pro-tip: Building trust requires a multifaceted approach because it includes connecting deeply, layers of communication, understanding shared goals, and so much more. Try conducting team building exercises to outline what trust looks like amongst your team and ask team members to commit to those qualities. Refer back to the list frequently and often with the team.
Image source: BetterUp
Communication challenges existed long before the unexpected and widespread shift to hybrid and remote work, but these working environments sometimes exacerbate communication issues amongst team members. Geographical dispersion and drastically different time zones can lead to challenges in scheduling meetings, difficulties maintaining real-time communication, and missed messages. Add in interpretations of tone, too many communication channels, and information overload, and you have a solid recipe for poor communication skills. But it doesn’t have to be this way—teams can and will thrive and communicate effectively in an environment that sets them up to do so.
Pro-tip: Don’t sit back and hope that great communication will happen. Work with your team to create a legend (or communication pyramid) that outlines how you’ll stay connected, how to use your various communication channels, and the expectations for reading and responding to a message. Include synchronous and asynchronous methods as you see fit for the best results. Here’s a company-wide example you could tailor for team communications:
Image source: Doist
Effective Delegation Strategies
Mastering the art of delegation is a crucial skill for today’s leaders. Successful leaders know and accept that they can’t do it alone and recognize the value of trusting team members to step up and help. When leaders delegate well, they do so strategically with careful consideration, clear communication, and a balance between empowerment and accountability.
Delegate the *right* work to the *right* people
One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make when delegating tasks is choosing the wrong ones or assigning tasks to team members that might not fit the work. Identifying the right work to delegate to team members is a skill that requires relationship-building, critical thinking, and strategic planning efforts.
Team leaders should consider the following when determining which tasks to delegate and to whom:
- Skill match: It’s essential to delegate tasks to individuals with the skills for the job. While delegating work can help individuals grow, it’s not always the best time to delegate work when it might require overcoming a steep learning curve at the same time. Consider the strengths of each team member, along with their interests, to determine appropriate skill matches.
- Goal alignment: If you own a task that aligns nicely with or falls under a team member’s goals or OKRs, it might be an appropriate piece of work to delegate to them. Alignment to common goals and connectedness to a larger strategic objective helps those receiving delegated work feel more invested in it and not like you are dumping unwanted tasks on their plate without reason.
- Workload and bandwidth: It’s essential to consider the workload of each team member to avoid overwhelming them while keeping their interests and career aspirations in mind. Additionally, it’s vital to spread delegated tasks out to ensure everyone is receiving opportunities to grow beyond their day-to-day.
- Routine or ad hoc execution: The type of task matters! Routine tasks that you can standardize are generally suitable for delegation as someone else can take full ownership of it and drive it forward. While some ad hoc projects might be appropriate to delegate, others may not if they require a significant training investment for a one-time execution.
Schedule check-ins, but don’t micromanage
Scheduling regular check-in meetings when delegating tasks gives leaders a connection point to stay informed without daily (or more frequent) micromanagement of the work and its progress. Leaders can (and should) check ins as touchpoints to offer support, discuss barriers hindering progress, ensure alignment, and address concerns. Depending on the complexity of the work, a weekly or biweekly cadence is appropriate for a brief meeting to discuss.
Here’s an example agenda for a check-in meeting:
- A brief overview of task progress: Team member(s) share an update on the delegated task(s), including completed milestones, upcoming due dates, and at-risk tasks that may fall behind schedule. Discuss any shifts in project priorities as they relate to other work.
- Flag roadblocks and challenges: Dedicate time to discuss challenges hindering progress and commit to the next steps for addressing the roadblocks.
- Open dialogue and feedback: Encourage team members to share their insights and suggestions on the work and whether they enjoy the project. Ask for feedback on how to improve future delegation opportunities. Provide feedback on the work and what’s working well up to this point.
- Final clarifying questions and thoughts: Provide a last opportunity to ask any outstanding clarifying questions and share final thoughts before wrapping up the meeting.
The key thing to remember about these check-ins is that there’s a fine line between providing support and maintaining autonomy. Avoid getting sucked into the nitty gritty task details or criticizing how team members are doing the work.
Be clear about priorities in the context of a full workload
When assigning tasks without a clear indication of priority, team members can’t effectively determine which tasks require immediate attention and which they can handle later. Just because a delegated task might not be a top priority on your list doesn’t mean your team members will treat it the same way unless you provide clear instructions. A lack of clarity can lead to frustration, missed deadlines, unnecessary stress, and a disconnect that hinders trust.
Be as specific as possible to ensure the effective prioritization of tasks. Below are some example phrases that communicate the relative urgency and importance of a task in the context of a full workload:
- “Thank you for your willingness to take on this work! Since this task is a high priority and needs to be completed by the end of the day tomorrow, let’s deprioritize tasks B and C on your to-do list and push those out to next week.”
- “I’m glad to hear you’re interested in taking this on. Before diving into this, please prioritize tasks A & B on your to-do list. Since we don’t have a deadline, you must prioritize your urgent, mission-critical work first.”
Benefits of Effective Delegation
Managers and their team members experience a lengthy list of benefits when delegation is effective and executed well. Deborah Grayson Riegel said, “In order to leverage the diverse strengths of your team and allow them to share and shine, you need to delegate. Delegating, when done well, not only reduces your own workload, it develops your employees, gives you and your team a bigger range of skills and impact, provides emergency back-up (since you’re not the only one who knows how to do something), creates inclusive opportunities, empowers people, and retains talent.”
Delegation is a win-win for leaders and their team members. When done correctly, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth for everyone involved. In today’s constantly evolving work landscape, development and constant learning are keys to success.
Tips for Improving Delegation
Becoming an artful delegator won’t happen overnight. Give it time, practice, and identify where you can improve. If you’re unsure where to start, try these tips to improve your delegation skills today.
Understand your team and their capabilities
An underrated skill to being an effective delegator? Active listening. As a leader, you should take the time to learn about your team members. Understand their interests, greatest strengths, and what their capacity looks like. Match tasks to their abilities for successful outcomes and know when it’s the right time to delegate a task requiring skill development before completion.
It’s also crucial to be mindful of workloads amongst team members to avoid delegating too much work to one individual or a small subset of the team, as this can quickly lead to burnout. Yingli Zhang, Director of Finance and Administration, said, “Transparency and fairness need to be built in the delegation process. The perception of unfairness or favoritism associated with the employee selection process can be damaging to the team culture.”
Grant authority with tasks
Don’t just delegate tasks; grant a reasonable amount of decision-making and problem-solving authority related to the task. You’re wasting everyone’s time if you don’t equip your team members with the power to drive the delegated work forward. Step in when necessary, but emphasize a collaborative process rather than an approval process as often as possible.
Robert Duke, a Research Analyst, said, “Defining what authority they have on their own and what actions need to be approved by you will define those expectations. If you have an employee who is asking you questions about things they should have the authority to address, instead of answering their questions directly, ask probing questions. ‘What do you think the best course of action would be?’ ‘If our situations were reversed, what would you recommend?’”
Tools & Apps for Team Coordination
Team management and project management tools will uplevel your team effectiveness and ensure all team members have what they need to succeed. The market is saturated with tools and apps to help your team succeed. Here are a handful of our favorites.
Asana for project management
Asana is excellent for managing and tracking projects and task lists. It’s also helpful in assigning or delegating tasks to others. Team members can see what others are working on and understand a delegated task within the big picture.
Slack for team messaging
Don’t let communication fall by the wayside. Team coordination skills, especially in a remote environment, requires regular communication. Slack is an easy to use productivity tool with many benefits. Create channels for different teams or projects, send and share documents in real time, and schedule reminders for later.
Clockwise for calendar management
Take the hassle out of team calendar management with an AI-powered time orchestration tool like Clockwise. With Clockwise, teams can prioritize Focus Time while optimizing meeting schedules and finding times that work for everyone. And Clockwise integrates with both Slack and Asana for a fully-integrated collaboration experience.