Five Steps to Better Delegating


These are busy days for managers in the workplace, as companies try to maximize their limited resources by hiring fewer people and asking for employees to work harder.

Many managers want to complete tasks themselves for the purpose of quality control. But in reality, delegating is a better way to ensure a task is done right. That may seem counterintuitive, but overworked managers may neglect to notice problems, and may have to cut corners in order to get projects completed by the deadline.

There are benefits to delegating for employees too, as those who are trusted with important work are likely to feel a sense of purpose and pride. Indeed, delegation can be looked upon as a development opportunity, in that subordinates who are tasked with new projects will learn new and valuable skills.

Despite the benefits, many managers find it difficult to delegate tasks and responsibilities to their employees. However, there are five easy steps they can follow to delegate responsibly, freeing up their time, and involving subordinates in important work:

  • Select the person and the task
  • Define parameters and level of empowerment
  • Communicate to others
  • Support
  • Monitor performance

The following is a deeper look at each step individually.

1 - Select the person and the task

Managers should carefully consider what to delegate and to whom. There are two ways to decide: the manager can delegate by thinking of a task or project that they need to delegate, and then choosing someone who will be successful in implementing it, or they can delegate by thinking of a person they would like to motivate or develop and choose a task that best suits their needs.

Here it is important to keep in mind that some tasks should not be delegated because granting certain authority to others may be inappropriate – such as conducting performance evaluations, disciplining employees, hiring and firing, handing out incentives, or anything having to do with confidentiality agreements. Delegating any of these tasks could not only cause legal problems for the manager, but also create jealousy and bitterness among the selected employee’s colleagues.

2 – Define parameters and level of empowerment

The next step for delegating managers is to clearly define the task to be delegated. Delegators should specify their expectations and the ultimate objective so that there is no ambiguity. Here the “SMART” guidelines are useful. The delegating instructions should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Of note is how the manager conveys the news of their delegating to the selected employee. The manager may want to take a motivational tone, framing the situation as an opportunity for growth, as the employee has demonstrated that they are competent and trustworthy.

3 – Communicate to others

In communicating the delegated task and the selected employee’s level of authority to their coworkers, managers should ensure that everyone understands the parameters of the assignment. They should pay careful attention to setting expectations around the selected employee’s level of authority in order to reduce ambiguity and stem any jealousy that may occur among the employee’s colleagues.

4 – Support

In order to get the best results, the manager must train the employee in the completion of the task, as necessary. They can do this by giving clear instructions and outlines, modeling the correct approach, and coaching the employee through the assignment.

5 – Monitor performance

Finally, managers should identify checkpoints when they will meet with the selected employee to review progress, offer guidance and do a debrief.

Managers are advised to schedule these meetings frequently at first and reduce their frequency as they see the task being mastered. It is best to be careful not to micro-manage, as that reduces motivation and engagement.

While delegating is not the first thing that comes to many managers’ minds when they have important tasks to complete, it is essential – and helpful – in the workplace. They can not only reduce some of their own workload, but motivate and develop their employees, to the benefit of the whole company.