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Delegation is as task in its own right - are you doing it properly?

11 July 2013

Discover the art of effective delegation. Learn how to prioritise tasks, utilise technology, maintain clear communication, and build trust to achieve successful delegation.

With the amount of work on most of our desks, delegation is vital, not only for effective time management and achieving end results, but also for maintaining your sanity. Delegating work is beneficial to you, but have you considered that the individuals you are delegating to also benefit? You are providing them with opportunities to increase their knowledge, skills, self-esteem and even job satisfaction. Delegating is the process by which managers assign, to subordinates, the right to make decisions and act in certain situations. Thus it involves more than just assigning tasks, it also entails providing the subordinate(s) adequate decision-making power to carry out the task successfully. You must accept that the subordinate may not do it in the same way that you are used to, but trust that they will achieve the desired end result.

9 Things to think about when delegating work:

1. What needs to happen?

Don't just think "me", think "we". Think of the big picture first. What are the company, division or team's priorities? Forget about your own agenda for a second and determine what needs to happen next, for the good of the "we". After you have determined the real priorities you should consider who might be best suited for what tasks?

2. What are your options?

There are many different options for delegating tasks, the choice of which will depend on the business's need as well as yours. Hiring or outsourcing is commonly used, but these days you might even consider hiring a virtual assistant. At this point you need to consider the resources required to get the job done, such as people, location, equipment, material and money.

3. Unpack the who, what, when, where, how and especially why of your processes

If all of your processes and systems are clearly documented, any future member of your team can easily jump in and pick up where you or others have left off. As manager you also need to create a reference system that people can refer to when they need to review or acquaint themselves with the processes. You don't have to have pages and pages of documentation, often keeping track of the 5W's & H is plenty. Keeping track of the "why" is important, because it is a reminder of the reasoning behind past decisions.

4. Develop a Prioritised Assignment Plan

Once all processes have been documented and communicated to the relevant parties, you will need to prioritise tasks and think about how you will assign, track and manage the delegated work.

5. Use Technology

Technology can make delegation easy and help individuals and teams overcome many different challenges. Technological solutions include, file sharing, scheduling or collaboration (like: asana or Trello etc) tools.

6. Use the SMARTER principle

Delegated tasks must be:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Agreed

  • Realistic

  • Timebound

  • Ethical

  • Recorded

Overall, subordinates should clearly understand the work delegated to them, know the scope of their decision making power, and accept accountability for the results.

7. Delegation is a discussion

Both parties should discuss and agree on what should be done regarding the expectations, resources available, timeframes, etc. Subordinates should be involved in the goal setting and measurement criteria or standards development process, in order for them to feel in control of what they are accountable for.

8. Delegation is keeping in touch

When it comes to effective delegation, communication needs to be clear, concise and consistent for all members involved in the process. You would need to state the required measurable results, agree on a deadline and/or review dates and finally provide regular feedback on the individual or team’s performance. The manager’s role is to provide guidance, help and information, while allowing the subordinate the space to carry the task through to completion.

9. Without trust, it all falls apart

Trust is one of the most important factors when it comes to delegation, and it goes both ways. Subordinates who are encouraged to use their abilities to complete tasks feels trusted. This increases their likelihood to accept further responsibilities. Managers who trust their subordinates to complete tasks efficiently and according to set expectations can get on with other tasks and not waste time on micromanagement.

Final thoughts

You cannot do it all, at least not well, at some point you must rely on others to get the work done. However, you remain responsible and accountable for the so called use of your authority as well as the performance of your subordinates. You are not relinquishing your power but rather providing opportunities for yourself and others to succeed.


Hellriegel, Jackson, Slocum, Staude, & Associates. (2001). Management, South African edition. Oxford University Press. Gregory, A. (n.d.). Top 7 tips for effective delegation. Retrieved from /od/businessmanagemen1/a/Effective-Delegation-Tips.htm Delegation. (n.d.). Retrieved from Why you should delegate. (n.d.). Retrieved from /project/parkprgrd/PSTrainingModules/delegating/del13frame.htm


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