Nine Steps To Delegating Effectively

by Kate Smalley

If you’re a supervisor, you can’t possibly handle all of the work of your department directly. That’s why effective delegating is one of the most vital skills you can possess. In fact, it’s absolutely crucial to your success.

Consider these words by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie: “The secret of success is not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right man to do it.”

So what exactly is delegating? It’s simply the act of entrusting an activity to another person. More specifically, delegation is the downward transfer of formal authority from superior to subordinate. You empower an employee to act for you, while you remain accountable for the outcome.

Effective delegation involves the following process: working with an employee to establish goals, granting them sufficient authority and responsibility to accomplish the goals, often giving them the freedom to decide how the goals will be achieved, being available as a resource to help them with the assignment, and evaluating and rewarding their performance.

Benefits of Delegating

If you’re a new supervisor, delegation can be a major challenge because you might be apprehensive about giving up control or lack confidence in others’ abilities. But effective delegating offers a variety of benefits. It will free up some of your time, enhance your leadership skills, plus help subordinates expand their capabilities – all of which will benefit your company overall.

Nine Steps to Effective Delegating

To help you delegate more effectively, here are some suggestions from Thomas R. Horton, the author of “Delegation and Team Building: No Solo Acts Please”, and other experts:

1. Decide what tasks need to be delegated. Delegate any task – from administrative to technical – that someone else can perform better. Hand off jobs you dislike the most, that are least critical to the performance of your job or that will provide valuable experience for subordinates. But never delegate any task that would violate someone else’s privacy.

2. Choose the right person for the job. Assess the skills and capabilities of subordinates and assign the task to the most appropriate person. Be sure to delegate the entire task because this gives the subordinate added responsibility and increases their motivation.

3. Define the scope of the work and set expectations. Give detailed explanations for what the job involves; including all key points. Provide information on what, why, when, who, where and how and clearly specify your preferred results. Write this information down.

4. Set deadlines. Employees will usually feel more responsible for a task when they’re held accountable. With no deadline, people tend to procrastinate and lose motivation. So help delegates set reasonable deadlines.

5. Identify methods for follow-up. Work with your employees to set a time for review of performance, such as a meeting to check progress or a phone call to see if they have any questions. The follow-up should be mutually determined at the start. This way, subordinates know you are not trying to micro-manage, but instead are trying to determine how work is progressing.

6. Train delegates, if necessary. Make sure delegates know how to do the assignment. If they don’t, provide the necessary training. The initial training may take more time than doing it yourself. But it will benefit you and them in the long run.

7. Delegate responsibility and authority – not methods. As a leader, you need to grant your delegates the responsibility to make everyday decisions. Have trust in them and try to give them the freedom to work without you looking over their shoulders. Also, let subordinates complete tasks in the manner they choose, as long as the results are what you have specified. Otherwise, they might feel unmotivated and powerless if they have no room to think creatively and act as they see best.

8. Evaluate performance. After the assignment has been completed, evaluate results, not methods. Evaluate the task based on the expectations and standards set when it was delegated. If certain aspects were left out when you initially defined the job, don’t hold delegates responsible. Work with your employees to determine how you and they feel about how the performance turned out and how it can be improved.

9. Acknowledge accomplishments and provide recognition. Always give recognition and praise for the work delegates have done. By recognizing their efforts and letting them know you appreciate them, they will take greater pride in their work and may be more willing to help with assignments in the future.

Copyright 2004, Kate Smalley. Connecticut Secretary Freelance Secretarial and Transcription Services.