by Phil Manington

In a nutshell

1. What is delegation?

Delegation is trusting subordinates with the authority to act on your behalf – they can make decisions, make changes and take action without referring back to you. To delegate work successfully to someone, you must ensure that:

  • They know what you want
  • They have the authority to achieve it
  • They know how to do it
  • They have agreed that they will do it.


2. Why is delegation so important?

In today’s less hierarchical, leaner management structures you need to delegate; if you do not, you will work ever longer hours and face a mounting backlog of problems. Delegation brings enormous rewards:

  • Your people will learn how to manage themselves with the minimum of supervision; they will become more self-confident, motivated and satisfied
  • Your organisation will benefit because tasks will be done at the least cost by the people best equipped to do them
  • Your productivity will increase; you will build a reputation as a highly efficient manager, and you will be training your successors, leaving you free for promotion.


3. How to get started

The key to successful delegating is to start gradually.

  • Assess your work – what tasks might you delegate?
  • Assess your team – who is capable of what?
  • What resources will they need?
  • How can you strike a balance between supervision and delegation?


4. Who to delegate to

When choosing the appropriate person to delegate a task to, you need to consider:

  • The ability and experience the person has
  • Their reliability
  • Their attitude
  • What motivates and interests them
  • What experience would be useful for them.


5. What to delegate

In general you should avoid delegating management functions and people management activities, but delegate or at least consider delegating

  • Routine activities which should also be included in job descriptions
  • The tasks you did before your promotion
  • The tasks you inherited that someone in your team could do
  • Any activity that your subordinates can do better than you.


6. How to delegate

Delegation is a process, not a one-off activity, and you need to include all the steps to ensure success.

  • Define the task: you must have a clear idea in your own mind about what it is you want done.
  • Choose the person, giving them training, if necessary.
  • Agree objectives and scope: explain what the job is and why you are delegating it, making sure agreed objectives are SMART.
  • Deal with any concerns and objections – stretch the person but do not panic them.
  • Let them get on with it.
  • Monitor progress: you will have agreed review points when discussing objectives. You need to stick to these.
  • Coach them, when appropriate.
  • Give feedback: review with the person whether they have achieved their agreed objectives.


7. Levels of delegation

There are various levels of delegation which you may choose according to the individual and the nature of the task.

  • Level 1: you give the person responsibility for collecting information, analysing it, if appropriate, and letting you know the results.
  • Level 2: as well as gathering information, you might ask them to investigate options for change, based on their findings.
  • Level 3: they can then be asked to make recommendations.
  • Level 4: trust your team member to make good decisions, based on the quality of their previous recommendations.
  • Level 5: you trust them to recognise potential problems, to decide when they need your help and to get you involved before things go wrong.


8. Profile of a good delegator

There is no single ‘right’ profile for a good delegator, but they will:

  • Value achievement and results rather than work and enjoy helping others reach their full potential
  • Believe that success is achieved through others and that people are capable of remarkable things
  • Be good at objective setting, matching the right people to the right tasks and coaching
  • Give advice, seek to draw knowledge out of people rather than putting it in, trust people, give them the credit for what they have achieved and behave consistently.


9. Ten secrets of good delegation

  • Start gradually.
  • Match people to the right tasks.
  • Agree what needs to be done.
  • Don’t expect people to do just what you would do.
  • Trust, encourage and give credit.
  • Coach your people.
  • Let go – be dispensable.


10. Overcoming your personal barriers

If you still find yourself uncertain or reluctant to implement the changes suggested in this topic, ask yourself why this should be, and then allow yourself time to explore your own personal barriers.

  • I don’t have time – then you need to free up time for delegation.
  • I need to stay in control – delegate well and your team will exercise control on your behalf.
  • I tried it before and it didn’t work – find out why it failed before and make the appropriate changes.
  • I can do it better myself – maybe, but that means you will be well equipped to coach your team in this area.
  • I need to know how to do the work I’m managing – simply not true...


11. Further barriers to successful delegation

If delegation isn’t working, and the problem does not seem to lie with you, what else could be going wrong and how can the barrier be overcome?

  • Everyone is already overloaded – then start by weeding out the unimportant tasks.
  • People don’t want extra responsibility – this is a serious problem and one that must be addressed.
  • The tasks are boring – mundane tasks should be fairly distributed and accompanied by responsibility.
  • You agree to do the next step – don’t take on other people’s monkeys!
  • Your boss doesn’t believe in delegation – then he needs persuading.


12. Coaching new managers

Coaching new managers to delegate involves the same skills as coaching them to take on or improve any skill.

  • Remember that each individual is different.
  • Make sure the person understands the importance of delegation.
  • Build delegation into their assessment criteria.


13. How good are you at delegation?

A set of questions to enable you to discover what aspects of your delegation skills could need devloping.