Great leaders know how to delegate effectively, but it is much more than just handing off a task or two. Delegating something is not the same as passing the buck or dumping things onto someone else. True delegation is thoughtful and serves a purpose larger than just task completion.
Too often, we think that it is faster and easier if we do it ourselves. Plus, we get it done exactly the way we want. But by learning what and how to delegate, we can free ourselves up to do other tasks that will help us grow as a leader. Through delegation, we can empower others to take on more responsibility, while learning and practicing a new skill. It provides us an opportunity to focus on higher level tasks while developing those around us.
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Bill Gates
Deciding What to Delegate
The first step in delegation is determining which tasks are best suited to be delegated. You don’t pick the tasks you like least; you use a specific decision-making process. Some responsibilities you just can’t delegate: sensitive tasks that can’t be done by others, tasks that require your specific skills or are required of your leadership position. But there are still probably a lot of things that can be delegated. Think about the following:
- Is it critical that I do this task myself?
- Do I have someone on my team with a skill set that matches this task?
- Could this task provide a development opportunity for someone on my team?
- Is this a routine task?
- Is it a teachable task?
- Are there any confidentiality aspects to this task?
Being thoughtful about what tasks you choose to delegate can make the difference between success and failure. Look for opportunities to delegate, but be intentional and transparent about these decisions.
“You can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility for delegating a task to someone else.” Richard E. Krafve
How to Delegate Effectively
Leaders who delegate effectively understand that it is a process with a series of steps that need to followed. Real delegation is assigning responsibility for outcomes along with the authority to do what is needed to produce the desired results. This is how you set everyone up for success.
- Review your tasks and select which ones are appropriate for delegation.
- Determine the specific outcomes for each of those tasks.
- Identity the person best suited for each task. This may be a combination of the person with the best skills and/or the person who will gain the most professional development from the task. Make sure you also consider their current workload and availability to complete the task.
- Clearly communicate the task, the expected outcomes, and the time restrictions to the delegee. Provide information on any requirements or protocols. If needed, provide training on these items. Have the instructions paraphrased back to you to ensure everything has been understood.
- Provide any needed resources to accomplish the task, including notifying any relevant people or systems that the delegee has authority for the task.
- Monitor progress as needed. Delegees who are new to the skills of the task will need to be monitored more closely than someone with greater experience. You may ask for regular updates or ask only to be made aware if any difficulties are encountered.
- Stay alert to the progress and provide any needed encouragement or coaching. You may have given the responsibility for executing the task to someone else, but you are still responsible for the outcome.
- Upon completion of the task, review the experience with the delegee and provide them with feedback on their performance. This is your opportunity to assess if other tasks could be delegated to this person, and an opportunity for them to give you feedback on your leadership through the delegation process.
Part of delegation is learning to let go. Once you delegate a task, allow the other person to carry out the task in the way that works best for them. They may not take the same approach you would have; stay focused on the outcome – what gets achieved – rather than how it gets achieved.
Putting It All Together
Delegation, when done effectively, is an important tool for leaders. Leaders have many responsibilities, including ensuring that their teams are well trained, identifying and developing future leaders, and preparing promising candidates for succession. Delegation is a great way to approach these responsibilities. In addition, when you delegate something, you are showing the delegee that you trust them. This helps that person feel valued and encourages them to take on other opportunities.
So, what are some of the tasks you could delegate? Who are some of the people on your team who would benefit from these opportunities? How can you use delegation to make yourself and those around you more successful? Think carefully about these questions. Then outline a plan for how you can be intentional about delegation and turn it into an effective leadership tool.