Delegation involves entrusting the work and goals of your unit to others – a passing on of authority. While simple tasks are included early on, effective delegation also includes work that involves independent action, decision-making, and the ability to change as the situation demands change without referring back to you.

This means you must ensure that the person you select to do a job:

  • knows what you want
  • has the authority to achieve it
  • knows how to do it

To do this requires, first, that each team member has all the relevant information flowing in as needed. Second, you must allow them to exercise control on your behalf which means you must train your staff to apply the standards you do.

Delegating successfully depends on knowing your team members well. You start small with tasks which can be done by the person with a little ‘stretch’ and then add tasks as the person achieves success. This presents the person with the opportunity to use their knowledge more and to increase their knowledge and skills in a supportive environment. Further, you must set up a progress reporting process at the onset so that you have the knowledge you need to provide support and feedback – as well as to keep you comfortable enough not to destroy the process.

When you delegate, you need to be clear on what results you expect. While ineffective, many managers delegate a task and then expect the person to do it exactly as the manager would. This does not usually result in effective delegation since it does not allow the person to develop their skills or learn from the process. In fact, your way may not always be the most effective way either. So be clear about what you are delegating and how much latitude the person has. Set up a process to monitor the project so as to catch any problems early. If you ask the person to identify both potential problems and recommended solutions, you will gain the most from delegating. This reduces your burden and improves the chance of success since it rewards the problem-solving rather than punishing errors.

What to Delegate

  • Tasks that you used to do: you have the experience and knowledge to explain these and to train others to do them well. This frees you for other work and strengthens your group’s abilities and contributions.
  • Tasks that others have more experience or knowledge of: they have the expertise. You do need to learn how they make decisions and what their standards are so that you can understand the decisions.
  • Tasks that are exciting should be delegated as widely as those which are boring. Task ownership should be delegated as well so that improvements and innovations can occur.
  • Critical tasks – you need to ensure others learn the tasks to prepare for the future.

What Not to Delegate

  • Personal tasks, such as: praising and recognizing employee’s efforts, motivation, team-building, discipline
  • Human resource management tasks, such as: organization, performance reviews, pay actions, structural activities
  • Tasks that should not be done or those which can be automated

Learning to delegate effectively is difficult for many people. Sometimes it is just difficult to give up control. For some it is a fear of loss or potential loss or of loss of power.  But smart delegation allows you and your company to grow successfully.