Delegation: Are you getting enough? Part Two: How do we Delegate?

Before you even consider how you are going to delegate, you must first ask yourself “Who shall I delegate this to?” The ability of the employee will dictate the level of autonomy you give them, and influence that all-important first discussion as you pass the task from your desk… to theirs.

Last month we explored why some managers are reluctant to delegate. How fear and distrust were major factors to be surmounted if we were to successfully delegate to our team.

This month we turn from the ‘Why’ to the ‘How’. What are the basic principles of delegation that help ensure that everybody gets a kick from seeing it succeed!

Know The Difference

If people are very different from one another, it naturally follows that delegation has to accommodate that difference. How you might choose to delegate to your shining star will probably be very different to delegating to your new kid on the working block.

It all comes down to the degree to which you can delegate real responsibility. Real responsibility is when you hand over complete control; to give someone complete control over a task is to delegate a task – entirely. This level of delegation is given to people who have already proved to be highly capable and experienced. When you delegate to someone whose capabilities and experience are less, then the level of control diminishes in direct proportion.

The degree of delegation – the extent to which this control is passed to your employee – must be determined before your first meeting and form the basis of an agreement about how the delegated task will proceed. Less experienced employees are going to value some input from you, an occasional piece of advice that helps them avoid wasting time and keeps them on target for a successful outcome. You will need to create these occasions where they can ask you for guidance; if you hand complete control over then you may be denying them the opportunity to seek reassurance and support.

As a rule of thumb, the following gives examples of the differing levels of autonomy being transferred to employees:

Extremely capable – “Come back to me about this only when you feel the need to discuss the task.”

Very capable – “Take the task away and update me occasionally as to how it’s progressing.”

Fairly Capable – “Take the task away and let’s agree regular meetings so that you can update me about it’s progress.”

Capability still to be demonstrated – “Take the task away, set out how you think you’re going to proceed with it and then let’s get together to discuss.”

Delegation isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ management garment; it has to be cut to the dimensions of the employee’s skill shape.

A 10 point Delegation Checklist

Good managers know that the art of delegation is the art of avoiding obvious assumptions. The fact that the employee may be nodding at them doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all going in. Employees may not always attack the task in the same way as their manager would. The time taken for getting the task underway is probably not going to be as short as that of a more experienced colleague.

Such assumptions are bear pits waiting to trap the naïve and inexperienced. If you want to skirt that bear pit, then you must do the following when you delegate:

1. Delegate the task early – The employee is going to need a lot more preparatory time than you would 
2. Explain the task clearly and logically – Take time to set out the requirements of the task 
3. Check the employee’s understanding – Get them to tell you what you’ve asked them to do; clarify any misunderstandings and check that they are happy with the task 
4. Outline the results that you are looking for – Gain the employee’s agreement to these results 
5. Establish a start time – When would you both agree it would be best to begin the task? What other work must be completed to make way for the new activity? 
6. Agree the timescales– Get their input and be generous with time set aside 
7. Agree how progress will be monitored – If necessary, diarise dates for updates and progress meetings 
8. Delegate whole tasks – If you truly want the experience to be meaningful to the employee, try and transfer as much of the task over as possible 
9. Leave them to get on with it – Don’t keep asking them how it going, that’s why you organised the progress meetings! There’s a fine line between interest and interference 
10. Praise progress – When you do meet up, sincerely acknowledge progress so that they feel fired up to keep the good work going!

Delegation really isn’t that difficult, but the effect it has on an employee’s sense of self-worth and self-belief can be immeasurable.

Oh, and it lessens your own workload as well. But we’re sure you’d already worked that one out long ago.

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