Managers who try to do everything themselves will get overwhelmed—and worse, they’ll produce lackluster work. This is why delegating work is essential.
When done in the right way, delegation empowers employees in their roles and contributes to their professional development. Here’s some information on how to do delegation right, as well as a downloadable effective-delegation checklist that walks you through the delegation process.
What Is Effective Delegation?
Delegation, at its core, is assigning tasks, authority, and responsibilities to others. Effective delegation takes it a step further by fully engaging the employees in their new tasks and roles to make them responsible and enthusiastic partners in the process of accomplishing the work that needs to be done. When done successfully, delegation allows employees to become self-managers of their individual responsibilities rather than cogs in the machine.
Effective delegation also plays to the individual strengths of both the manager and the employees. Good managers recognize that everybody has unique talents and capitalizes on them in ways that make sense.
What Are the Basic Principles of Delegation?
An effective delegation plan can help a company operate effectively and efficiently—but for that to happen, managers must stick to the six basic principles of delegation found below.
1. Define the Scope
Managers need to clearly define the scope of the delegated responsibility to the employee. The employee should know the tasks they have to perform, the activities they must oversee, and how these tasks relate to other jobs.
2. Define the Results
Managers should clearly explain the purpose of the task along with what it entails. What results are you hoping to achieve? How will success be measured? The employee should understand and be able to articulate the difference between success and failure on this project.
3. Balance Authority and Responsibility
If employees are given new authority but no new responsibilities, they’ll likely be ineffective in their tasks. Likewise, if they are given new responsibilities but no new authority, it will be hard for them to accomplish their assignments. Authority and responsibility must be in balance for delegation to be effective.
4. Define the Limits of Authority
Your employees should have a crystal-clear understanding of their authority and responsibilities so their work doesn’t overlap with other delegated tasks or cause them to do unnecessary work. If they know exactly what they’re responsible for, they can work more efficiently without getting distracted by unrelated tasks.
5. Manage Responsibility
Ultimately, managers are still responsible for their employees’ work and performance, even if the responsibility for completing an assignment has been delegated. Make sure that the employees who you’ve recently delegated assignments to are working efficiently and completing their tasks in the right ways. That said, it’s important to avoid being a micromanager—it undermines the entire point of delegating in the first place and robs your employees of their confidence.
6. Establish a Clear Line of Command
Employees should only have to report to one supervisor directly. If an employee receives orders for the same tasks from multiple supervisors, it can lead to confusion and conflict. Make sure employees know who to go to when they have any questions and who they should defer to when completing tasks.
Examples of Workplace Tasks to Delegate
The value of delegation may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be difficult to know which tasks you should delegate. To help you out, here are some examples of tasks that are prime candidates for delegation.
If a task takes you out of the office, you may want to delegate it. This is particularly common for collaborative projects with other companies.
Here, we aren’t referring to the repetitive tasks you’d just rather not do. Recurring tasks are those that repeat on a regular basis, such as completing weekly status reports or running semi-weekly meetings. It’s a good idea to fully delegate these tasks to others, meaning that the employee does not have to check back to get their progress evaluated before completing the task again.
The opposite of recurring tasks, intervening tasks are high-priority tasks that you just don’t have the bandwidth or time to do. Instead of missing a deadline, you can delegate these types of tasks to a competent and trustworthy employee.
Projects that require creativity and innovation are often good candidates for delegation to a group or committee. This is based on the logic that when more people are involved, there’s a greater likelihood of coming up with a truly innovative idea.
What Are the Benefits of Effective Delegation?
Effective delegation allows the employees who are assigned tasks to develop their talents, improve on their weaknesses, and become more engaged in their profession. This results in better-qualified employees who could advance in your company and perhaps become leaders down the line.
Leaders who engage in effective delegation help the company run more smoothly since they are no longer bogged down by tasks that others could do, that could be used as opportunities to develop the skills and capabilities of employees, and that help the company build its leadership pipeline.
How Do You Communicate Delegation?
When delegating tasks and responsibilities, it’s important to understand the leader’s role—namely, that the leader’s responsibility for the assignment doesn’t end once the task has been delegated to someone else. A good manager will keep tabs on the delegated task but not micromanage it. Here are a few tips:
- Meet regularly with your employee to review how the task is progressing.
- Give the employee constructive feedback on the progress being made.
- Listen to their feedback on your management style.
- Thank them for their continued hard work.
- Ask what type of support they need from you.
Download Our Effective-Delegation Checklist
Now that you have a better understanding of effective-delegation skills, you can use this checklist as a quick reference when delegating tasks. This will help ensure both you and your employees have a successful delegation experience.