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5 Principles of Effective Delegation

Note: This resource is part of our Moving the Bar in Your Career and Your Life, a unique approach to professional development series: Optimizing Employee Performance. Click here to see the entire series.

When you begin to think of yourself as a successful leader, you realize that there are more demands on your time than you can possibly fill. This is a common problem faced by many leaders. The solution to this challenge is developing a process of effective delegation. However, delegation is an important tool that many leaders hesitate to use, and it has been the downfall of many leaders. The biggest barrier to delegation is overcoming the attitude that you must do it all! It becomes a leader’s curse when you adhere to the adage, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

Delegation is very different from simply assigning someone a task or project that falls into his or her established job description or requirements. When you delegate, you give someone else one of your job tasks to complete with the authority and control to complete it properly. Delegation is not abdication. You share accountability for the assignment, which is why checkpoints are established to monitor overall progress. Just as the outcomes of your entire department are your responsibility, you are also responsible for the ultimate success of the delegation process.

 

When delegation is done properly and for the right reasons, it helps foster a climate of trust and creates growth opportunities for your employees. Here are five principles that can help you create an effective delegation process.

1. Determine what you will delegate. Effective delegation begins with defining your responsibilities. Write down all of your activities and responsibilities. Review your master list and categorize all of the items into two secondary lists: things you alone must do and things that others could do or help you complete. Anything that falls into the second list presents an opportunity for delegation.

2. Choose the right person to delegate the task to. Andrew Carnegie said, "The secret to success lies not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right person to do it." The key to finding the right person to delegate an assignment to is matching skills and attitude to the task at hand.

3. Clarify the desired results. When the results are clear, it allows the employee to use his or her own creativity and resources to accomplish the task. An added benefit of effective delegation is the individual may find a better and more effective way to accomplish the task or achieve the desired results.

4. Clearly define the employee’s responsibility and authority as it relates to the delegated task. Clearly communicate the expectation, responsibilities, and timeline. Be sure to ask the employee to share his or her understanding.

5. Establish a follow up meeting or touch points. The follow up meetings should be focused on two things-monitoring progress and determining the need for assistance. The number of follow up meetings will vary based on the scope of the task or project and whether the employee is new or a long term member of the department.

Once you have created a solid process for delegation, stick to it, and avoid reverse delegation. At times, a team member may try to dump the delegated task back to you, and you may feel tempted to take it back especially if he or she seems to be struggling. Helping him or her stretch outside his or her comfort zone is all part of a positive growth and development. Use the scheduled follow up meetings to manage the delegation process, provide encouragement, and monitor the results!