9 Steps to Delegating Authority and Tasks More Effectively

June 9, 2015

9 Steps to Delegating Tasks and Authority More Effectively

Leaders usually love the idea of delegating, but when it comes time to passing out tasks, they sometimes get cold feet. It might be more work, they realize, to explain how to do the task appropriately than to just do it themselves. Or they may balk at trusting the delegatee because of variables they haven’t considered or addressed.

When leaders delegate halfway—by re-taking responsibility midway through or by micromanaging throughout—no one is served. It tends to irritate everyone and lead to poor work quality.

For delegation to work effectively, the delegator and delegatee should communicate well from the outset. Here are the nine steps you should take as leader/delegator:

  1. Make sure this is, in fact, a task you want someone else to do. Leaders often have tasks that feel sacred to them—either because they like doing the task, they feel it’s too important to be given to someone else, or they’ve done it for so long that it feels necessary to continue. If you won’t be happy with how someone else does the task, don’t delegate it—unless and until you come to terms with the fact that the task is not sacred.
  2. Verify that the delegatee has adequate time to meet your timeline without compromising other organizational priorities—especially higher priorities.
  3. If the delegatee need your authority to accomplish the task, give it (preferably in writing, so that it’s on record) and communicate it to those who need to know.
  4. Indicate how the task connects to broader organizational goals, so that the delegate is motivated to succeed.
  5. Explain what the task or objective is in detail, then ask the delegatee to explain it back to you, so that there’s no chance of miscommunication. Saying it aloud also promotes ownership of the responsibility.
  6. Set expectations about what the delegatee is responsible for and what your involvement will be (if any). People tend to be more motivated when they can choose how they can best accomplish a task, but if you want it done your way, say so at the outset, so that there’s no second guessing (on your part) or misunderstanding (on theirs).
  7. Ask for specific feedback at specific times and/or certain milestones, so that you’re not spending time worrying and they’re not feeling hounded by follow-up questions.
  8. Agree on resources. There is nothing more frustrating than being delegated a task and given direction, but not having the necessary resources to accomplish the task.
  9. Put as much of this communication in writing as possible. If you’re very particular about how the task should be done, you may find it easier to write it out yourself (and save the instructions for future use). Or have the delegatee take copious notes and provide you a copy of those notes within 24 hours.

If you follow these nine steps you will be delegating tasks more effectively.

Questions to ask when delegating:

What other projects are you working on?

How much time will you have to devote to this project?

What opportunities does this project provide to help you advance in the company?

What resources can I help you obtain that will free up time for you to work on this project?

What suggestions do you have for making our project successful?


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