How to Delegate and Why You Should

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Many people think they know what delegating is and think they know how to delegate effectively but it can be trickier than most people realize. It’s not just giving your work to somebody else so you can lounge around. That’s not effective delegating. So what is delegating effectively?

What is Delegating (Delegation Defined)?

Delegating is the act of authorizing or entrusting another person with tasks or responsibilities. Normally delegation happens between a person in a position of power and someone less senior to them. For instance, a supervisor may delegate some tasks to an employee of theirs.

Leaders can delegate authority and power or they can delegate tasks. Delegating authority and power means giving a subordinate the ability to make certain decisions and allowing them to do certain jobs. For example, a manager may select someone to fill their role while the manager is on vacation. Task delegation is limited to specific tasks. The leader entrusts subordinates with certain tasks. For example, a leader may delegate the task of making the next week’s schedule to a subordinate.

Why is Delegating Important?

At this point you may be thinking doesn’t delegating make me a lazy person? Absolutely not! Delegating is a very important tool for supervisors and managers. Not only does it give you time for other duties but it also builds the skills of your subordinates. Building these skills with the members of your team is crucial for making your team as strong as it can be.

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5 Rights of Delegation

The Five Rights of Delegation is more of a term used in nursing but can be applied to most situations and professions. The Five Rights of Delegation are the right task, right circumstances, right person, right direction or communication, and right supervision or feedback.

  • Right Task – Is this a task that can be legally and ethically delegated? Not all tasks can be delegated.
  • Right Circumstances – Are the circumstances right to delegate the task? It may be perfectly acceptable to delegate a task in one situation but that same task should not be delegated in another situation.
  • Right Person – Is this the right person to delegate the task or authority to? You want to ensure the person you are delegating to is ready and competent to handle the task. Especially in do or die situations.
  • Right Direction – Does the delegatee have proper direction. To have the highest chances of success, you must give the person good directions. This means being specific in what your expectations and goals are for them on the task.
  • Right Supervision – You must provide the right level of supervision both during the task and after. After the task is complete you and the delegatee should have a feedback session on how it went and what could be improved. This both helps for the next time and further builds the employee’s skills because you provide them with your wisdom and experience.

For more information on the 5 Rights of Delegation click here.

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Tips on How to Delegate Successfully

1.     Trust the Delegatee

As hard as it may be in the beginning, you have to trust that your employee can do the job. If you don’t trust your employee it will be obvious and they will likely not do as good of a job. Remember the 5 Rights of Delegation from above. If you have the right person on the right task at the right time you have nothing to worry about.

2.     Communication is Key

As with anything in leadership, communication is key. You need to communicate your expectations and communicate what authority the subordinate will have. This clear communication will set your subordinate up for success.

3.     Provide Support

Just because you’ve delegated a task to somebody it doesn’t mean you can forget about it. Be there to help your employee when they need it. Especially if it’s something they haven’t done before. Make sure your employee has all the tools and resources needed to complete the job.

4.     Delegate Early

The earlier you delegate a task to someone, the higher the chances of success. If you wait until the task is almost due before you delegate it, you will put added stress on the delegatee to get it done. The best time to delegate tasks is as soon as they come up. Even if it doesn’t need to be started for a little while, let the delegatee know that he or she will be leading this task.

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5.     Delegate to One Person

When you delegate tasks or authority to more than one person it can cause confusion and friction between team members. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give tasks to teams but when you do you should clearly state who is leading the team on this task. If you are delegating authority, one person is ideal unless it’s something where the employees won’t step on each other’s toes.

6.     Practice Patience

You must exhibit patience with your employees when you delegate. They may not get the tasks done the same way or even at the same speed you would but that doesn’t make them wrong. Many times, they will surprise you and do things in ways that never even thought of.

7.     Grant the Authority Needed

It’s important that if you are going to delegate a task to somebody, you need to give them the authority to get it completed. If they have to ask your permission at every step of the way, you did not really delegate the task. It can be very frustrating for an employee to get told they are in charge, only to find out they aren’t. This will inhibit the employee’s progress on the task making it take longer to complete.

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8.     Don’t Step in Too Early

Problems will happen. It doesn’t matter if you are running it or somebody else is running it, problems are inevitable. When they do arise, give your subordinate time to solve it on their own. Don’t step in as soon as some difficulties arise. Don’t let your delegatee fail but allow them the opportunity to solve it. At times, you may even have to politely tell your subordinate to figure it out on their own.

If you do need to step in to help them, do it in a way where you are guiding them and not giving them the solution. Anyone can lead when things are going right but difficulties are what build us and it will build your subordinates as well.

9.     Give Credit and Reward

If you delegated a task, and your subordinate did well, let it be known. Give them credit for the job. This does not make you look bad to those above you. Believe it or not, this makes you look like a better boss. Your team’s success is your success so give them credit for their accomplishments.

10.  Provide Feedback

Always provide feedback after the job delegated is done. Tell the employee what they did right and what you might have done differently. This not only gives the employee ideas to build upon for the next time but allows you to openly share ideas with the employee. Don’t forget to make it a two-way conversation. Get the employee’s take on what went well and what they think they could have done differently.

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Final Thoughts on How to Delegate

As leaders, it can sometimes be hard to let go of the control but delegating effectively is important for supervisors. It will help your employees grow, giving them new skills and experiences. There’s a saying in the Air Force “You’re always training your replacement”. This doesn’t mean the people you’re training are going to push you out of a job. It means the people underneath you should always be ready to take over when needed.

You never know what could happen. You could get promoted. You could take another job. There could be an emergency in your family that pulls you away from work. In all those situations you want the next in line to be ready if the time comes.

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