7 Steps to Effective Delegation

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more. Read Full Bio

Last month, “Barriers to Effective Delegation” was the topic. Included in those barriers was the fact that some managers do not know how to delegate effectively. Whether through no or poor training, or a mentor who passes on bad habits, managers who do not have the ability to delegate effectively are a negative influence in their organizations.

The late Eldridge Cleaver once said: “Either you are part of the solution or part of the problem; there is no in-between.” These words emphasize how critical this leadership skill of delegation can be!

A working definition of effective delegation for an individual in a leadership role: “The extension of oneself through another person/group.” When done well, the manager enhances coaching skills, helps others along their career paths, builds a sense of team accountability and, if done very well, finds time to actually address other priorities. At the same time, the individual gets the opportunity to learn and grow, feels he/she is a more critical part of the team, and gains skills that will make him/her more promotable.

Here are seven suggested steps:

  1. Select the Right Person
    In a world that is demanding that we do more, better, faster, and with less resources, some managers often look to the easiest person to dump on, rather than someone who might perceive a project as a growth opportunity. I would agree that it is vital to give the ball to your best person when the heat is on. However, the habit that must be broken is to do this all the time. If this happens, the best person can start to burn-out and other team members might (and often do) get frustrated.

  2. Plan the Delegation
    There was a point in my career when I worked with an organization that was going through serious downsizing. I walked in one Monday and was told in a delegation meeting that one of my fellow managers had been let go. The “Good News” for me was that I still had my job (50-60 hours per week) and I would have the “opportunity” to take on the duties of my departed colleague. In translated language, if I did not take on the additional duties, my option for continued employment would not be there. Looking back, had this meeting been better planned by my boss, it really would have been received in a much better light. Ultimately, the new job duties formed the foundation of a new career. However, at the time, it was a great example of DUMP-ON 101, and felt like it too!

  3. Delegate by Results to be Achieved, Limitations & Performance Standards
    Continuing with the story I started above, these three areas were not very clear in our delegation meeting. In fact, the response to many of my concerns and questions was: “We’ll have to get back to you on that.” If there is a suggestion for anyone who is passing on an assignment to another, be sure these three things are crystal clear in your mind before the delegation meeting. If they are not, be prepared to have your ideas questioned and, in some cases, deflated.

  4. Ask the Person for a Plan of Action
    If the delegator has indeed selected the right person, planned the delegation meeting, and has a very clear view of the assignment, the meeting has a much better chance of going smoothly. And if it does go well, the delagatee should be ready to prepare a plan to make it happen.

  5. Review the Plan and Get Agreement
    Prior to putting the plan into effect, it is critical that both the manager and subordinate have agreed on the process. Failure to do so will result in either botched results or lack of communication, leading to poor results later. This is the step that can make or break a career path. The one thing you want to be sure of in the subordinate role is to be absolutely on the same page as your manager! Failure to do so can be painful for both parties, as well as the organization.

  6. Implement the Plan with Manager Support
    Managerial support is the essence of sound coaching — not doing! It is knowing when to offer help and when to let your team member forge their own path. The necessary attitude for the manager and team member is to allow work to take place in an atmosphere where failure is not the end of a career. People who do make it to the top of their professions have usually made their share of mistakes along the way and have done a great deal of learning from them.

  7. Follow Up
    When the manager follows up in effective delegation, he/she is going right back to the three items mentioned in Number 3 above. Did we hit the results we were striving for? Did we work within the limitations (budget, timelines, etc.) that were agreed upon? Did we meet the performance standards that were established?

In summary, effective delegation is a two-way street. It can be a tremendous growth opportunity if done well!

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