Successful Delegation in Six Steps

This is the second post in a multiple-part series entitled Tools and Tips for Successful Management and Leadership. One of the primary ways that a manager can increase the productivity of the team is by effective delegation. The rewards of a successful delegation effort are three-fold: 1) More and/or more advanced tasks are accomplished by the employee; 2) Employee satisfaction increases as they become a more valuable team member and; 3) The team becomes more talented and capable to fulfill the changing needs of the business. Improper or poor delegation will turn those rewards on their heads, with the result of less (or lesser quality) work accomplished and a disenchanted employee and a less effective team. Poor delegation implementation also leads down the path of micro-management, an evil of unspeakable horrors! In addition, you must first consider the employee's readiness to accept the new responsibility. An unready employee will likely not succeed. However, you can often foster the state of readiness with several preliminary tasks (baby steps, as it were) in advance.

"Focus on the process of effective delegation to assure that your performance is conducive to success."

Successful and effective delegation is accomplished in 6 steps, which as always, are structured on the Three Key Principles discussed in the first blog of this series: 1) Listen and respond with empathy; 2) Ask for help in solving the problem and; 3) Set goals and a date for follow-up.

  1. Clearly define the expected result desired and timing of the accomplishment, including any absolute requirements, tools, status reports, personnel involvement, etc.
  2. Explain the benefits of the delegation to the organization, those you're delegating to, and yourself.State your support and confidence in their ability to accomplish the task well. Here you might be able to tie successful accomplishment to a path towards possible promotion.

  1. Ask for feedback on the task. Are they confident in their ability to accomplish? Do they have experience that might prove helpful? Are they concerned that other work will suffer, and if so, what approach might minimize that effect? Are there any other questions?
  2. Set a milestone, or a series of them, and a timeline for accomplishment. Ask them to prepare a brief summary of the task, as they understand it. This summary can be verbal if the newtask is simple and straight forward. It should be in writing if it is complex or cover a period of weeks versus days. Confirm your acceptance and begin! Make sure that you communicate to all involved in this delegation effort, and your expectation of support for the employee.

  1. Meet on milestone timelines without fail. Praise good efforts and accomplishments. Modify future plans as necessary, and address any roadblocks that have arisen.
  2. Celebrate final success, communicate to all concerned the permanent responsibility arrangement. Add the accountability to their job description, if appropriate. Don't forget to ask if there are any other challenges that they'd like to tackle. Do your best to reward their initiative.

There will be cases where the delegation effort does not succeed. Lack of performance can be for many reasons, and future blog posts will cover performance improvement, issue resolution, etc. For now, focus on the process of effective delegation to assure that your performance is conducive to success.

Please comment on your own experiences with delegation, and let us know what has worked (or not!) for you in your career.

Share your "war stories"

This is the second post in a multiple-part series entitled Tools and Tips for Successful Management and Leadership. Coming Next: Performance Management

(C) 2010 Martin Bergstedt, Used by permission.

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RGCook's picture

The post reminds me of the three so-called leadership styles, of which, Delegative is one. The other two being, Authoritarian (my way or the highway) and Participative (generally considered most effective). Group leaders don't have the time to be participative to everyone in the team, especially if the company is large and lots of things need to get done! However, I think that Martin's points about effective delegation must also include recognition by the leader that those who can be delegated to tomorrow, require your participation today. We all start with a first step.

mbergstedt's picture

Thanks for the feedback, RG. The purpose of these “Tools & Tips” is to describe methods and processes versus overall styles of leadership. Of course, the two are never inseparable, and a good leader will utilize the styles that are most appropriate to the situation and moment (to everything there is a season…). I concur about preparation of team members for delegation, and the need to “foster the state of readiness.” Marty