The art of delegation

We all know that for a business to operate efficiently, trust is needed at every level of the organisation. Employees need to have complete faith in senior management and trust that they are the right people to lead them forward and leadership need to believe that employees can deliver results when senior management delegate authority.

Essentially, delegation is the process of assigning responsibility to a team or individual whilst also maintaining overall responsibility for the task’s success. Some senior managers are reluctant to delegate authority, believing that ‘if you want something done right, you should get on and do it yourself’. There are many reasons why this attitude is unconstructive and inefficient. Delegation is a necessity for any business, reaping countless benefits for the organisation and leadership.

Firstly, delegation promotes a culture of trust within a company, by empowering team members you are giving them your full support and letting them know that you have trust in their abilities. Research suggests that when employees feel empowered, it leads to stronger job performance, higher job satisfaction and a stronger commitment to the organisation[1].

Secondly, delegation frees up the time of senior management, allowing them to prioritize other, important work that needs completing. It also enables faster decision making – managers no longer need to spend their own time contemplating a decision if employees have the power and authority to make it on their own.

Third, the experience of responsibility for senior tasks in a controlled environment can be a key learning and training function. Instead of assigning employee’s generalist tasks, throw them in the deep end by delegating authority and empowering them to make their own decisions. This will act as a catalyst for development as it will teach employees new skills and capabilities, making them more versatile and motivated when approaching tasks in the future.

The second half of this article will look at some strategies and techniques for effective delegation, outlining a simple framework created by Jayson DeMers[2], Founder and CEO of AudienceBloom,.

Establish a priority system

Jayson recommends implementing a priority system for tasks, consisting of four categories based on the level of expertise and skill needed. The highest skilled category should only contain tasks eligible for senior management to complete, going down through the ranks to the lower skilled categories that can be assigned to lower level employees. Establishing a priority system enables employees to feel empowered whilst senior leaders remain in control of the delegation process.

Play to your employee’s strengths

A great leader should already know his employee’s strengths and weaknesses and where they can add value to particular projects. When delegating you should only assign work to those members who have relevant skills to deliver on the task. By doing this, senior managers play to employee’s strengths and increase their chances of success.

Always include instructions

Whether or not the task feels simple or obvious enough to you – always include instructions. This includes any information needed to complete the tasks, any preferences you have on the process or any deadlines or milestones that need to be hit. Clear and concise instructions will prevent any communications errors and ensure that the task is executed effectively.

Don’t be afraid to teach new skills

It’s clear that not all members on your team will have the skills and abilities to complete specific tasks. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an issue but rather a chance to provide relevant training and development to your team. Don’t be put off by the prospect of committing time up front to invest in your teams skill set. Not only will it save you time and money in the long run but it will also increase your employees job satisfaction as they continue to learn and develop within their role.

Create feedback loops to improve delegation moving forward

DeMers concludes his strategic framework with a feedback loop. This works both ways – if an employee has done a job well, show them recognition and publicly thank them, but if they’ve missed the mark, this time offer constructive criticism to help them do better in the future. Remember that this should go both ways though, ensure that your team are confident to feed back to you on how comfortable they felt carrying out a task and if they felt they had enough information and support to do a good job. This will help you to determine whether you are assigning the right tasks to the right people and providing enough support to achieve the best results.

Although delegation can seem a simple enough concept, it’s surprising how many senior managers fail to place trust in their team for a variety of reasons. In today’s high stress and fast paced work environment the skill of delegation is more important than ever and managers who are afraid to share the burden of responsibility often become overworked and stressed, leading to less effective leadership.

Finally, always remember that good working relationships are built on trust and respect, not on power dynamics. Senior managers who work to build solid and lasting relationships with their teams will see positive results – a better well-run business, happier employees and greater efficiency at all levels of the business.

If you like this leadership style content, be sure to check out our ‘Hot leadership topics of the month‘ content feature.


[1] https://hbr.org/2018/03/when-empowering-employees-works-and-when-it-doesnt

[2] https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/7-strategies-to-delegate-better-and-get-more-done.html

Often, senior managers are reluctant to delegate authority, believing that ‘if you want something done right, you should get on and do it yourself’. There are many reasons why this attitude is unconstructive and inefficient. Delegation is a necessity for any business, reaping countless benefits for the organisation and leadership.

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