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Delegation is one of the most important management skills. These logical rules and techniques will help you to delegate well (and will help you to help your manager when you are being delegated a task or new responsibility – delegation is a two-way process!). Good delegation saves you time, develops your people, grooms a successor, and motivates. Poor delegation will cause you frustration, demotivates and confuses the other person, and fails to achieve the task.

So it’s a management skill that’s worth improving. Here are the simple steps to follow if you want to get delegation right, with different levels of delegation freedom that you can offer.

Delegation is vital for effective leadership. Effective delegation is crucial for management and leadership succession. The main task of a manager in a growing thriving organization is ultimately to develop a successor. When this happens everyone can move on to higher things. When it fails to happen the succession and progression becomes dependent on bringing in new people from outside.

These delegation tips and techniques are useful for bosses – and for anyone seeking or being given delegated responsibilities.

As a giver of delegated tasks you must ensure delegation happens properly. Just as significantly, as the recipient of delegated tasks you have the opportunity to ‘manage upwards’.Managing the way you receive and agree to do delegated tasks is one of the central skills of ‘managing upwards’. Therefore while this page is essentially written from the manager’s standpoint, the principles are just as useful for people being managed.

Delegation and SMART, or SMARTER

A simple delegation rule is the SMART acronym, or better still, SMARTER. Delegated tasks must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed
  • Realistic
  • Timebound
  • Ethical
  • Recorded

The Steps of Successful Delegation

Define the task

  • Confirm in your own mind that the task is suitable to be delegated.
  • Does it meet the criteria for delegating?

Select the individual or team

  • What are your reasons for delegating to this person or team?
  • What are they going to get out of it?
  • What are you going to get out of it?

Assess ability and training needs

  • Is the other person or team of people capable of doing the task?
  • Do they understand what needs to be done?
  • If not, you can’t delegate.

Explain the reasons

  • Why the job or responsibility is being delegated
  • Why to that person or team
  • What is its importance and relevance
  • Where does it fit in the overall scheme of things

State required results

  • What must be achieved
  • Clarify understanding by getting feedback from the other person
  • How the task will be measured
  • Make sure they know how you intend to decide that the job is being successfully done.

Consider resources required

  • Discuss and agree what is required to get the job done
  • Consider people, location, premises, equipment, money, materials, other related activities and services.

Agree deadlines

  • When must the job be finished
  • Or if an ongoing duty, when are the review dates
  • When the reports are due
  • And if the task is complex and has parts or stages, what are the priorities?

At this point you may need to confirm understanding with the other person of the previous points, getting ideas and interpretation. As well as showing you that the job can be done, this helps to reinforce commitment.

Checking and Controlling

Methods of checking and controlling must be agreed with the other person

Failing to agree this in advance will cause this monitoring to seem like interference or lack of trust.

  • Support and communicate.

Think about who else needs to know what’s going on, and inform them. Involve the other person in considering this so they can see beyond the issue at hand. Do not leave the person to inform your own peers of their new responsibility. Warn the person about any awkward matters of politics or protocol. Inform your own boss if the task is important, and of sufficient profile.

  • Feedback on results

It is essential to let the person know how they are doing, and whether they have achieved their aims. If not, you must review with them why things did not go to plan, and deal with the problems. You must absorb the consequences of failure, and pass on the credit for success.

Levels of Delegation

Delegation isn’t just a matter of telling someone else what to do. There is a wide range of varying freedom that you can confer on the other person. The more experienced and reliable the other person is, then the more freedom you can give. The more critical the task then the more cautious you need to be about extending a lot of freedom, especially if your reputation depends on getting a good result.

It’s important to ask the other person what level of authority they feel comfortable being given. It’s your responsibility to agree with them what level is most appropriate, so that the job is done effectively and with minimal unnecessary involvement from you.

Involving the other person in agreeing the level of delegated freedom for any particular responsibility is an essential part of the ‘contract’ that you make with them.

People are generally capable of doing far more than you imagine.

The rate and extent of responsibility and freedom delegated to people is a fundamental driver of organisational growth and effectiveness, the growth and well-being of your people, and of your own development and advancement.

Bruce Cowan
Bruce Cowan
Bruce brings a wealth of knowledge from a varied career both with large engineering firms and as a small business owner. This experience coupled with his work in voluntary organisations leads naturally to becoming a Business Consultant.