Character Carrying Arrows

One of the most crucial and challenging tasks for Leaders is leadership delegation; i.e. to effectively apportion work among the people they lead. Yet the truth is that many simply don’t. They don’t for many reasons.

For some it’s about control and perfection. They can’t give up control to someone else. No one can do the task as “perfectly” as they can. For others it’s about time. They are the ones who frequently complain that that they have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. As a result, they never make the effort to learn effective delegation techniques. There are many others, too, who simply don’t know how as delegation skills are rarely taught in formal academic centers.

So to be “the best” at delegation you need to know the answers to the following four questions:

1.) What do effective delegators do?

2.) How do I know what to retain and what to delegate?

3.) Did I delegate all that I could?

4.) How can I be confident that the results will be achieved?

Question One: What do effective delegators do?

In order to delegate effectively you need to know what it looks like. Here is what effective delegators do:

  • Clearly delegate both routine and important tasks and decisions
  • Broadly share both responsibility and accountability
  • Trust in the talent of their direct reports to perform
  • Communicate the bigger picture with benchmarks for progress
  • Define resource requirements and decision rights
  • Let direct reports and others finish their own work
  • Do not micro-manage
  • Describe in detail what the outcome should look like and the time frames for accomplishments
  • Celebrate success

Question Two: How do I know what to retain and what to delegate?

In order to delegate, you must take the time to identify activities or projects that can be accomplished by others. You must also determine their decision rights (usually approval limits on resources acquired or expensed.)

To determine which of your activities would be best to delegate, first list all the activities for which you are currently responsible. Then classify each activity as a task that:

  • You must retain and perform yourself
  • You can share with your people
  • You can delegate to your people

Use the following chart to help structure your analysis:

Task Retain Share Delegate Decision Rights 

Question Three: Did I delegate all that I could?

Now, return to your task list and examine those items that you have retained.  Are you holding on to any task unnecessarily?  Could you further develop your staff by passing along some of these duties?

Question Four: How can I be confident that the results will be achieved?

The key to leadership delegation is to communicate defined expectations, goals and time frames for results — and then get out of the way.

One of the most common problems with delegation is incomplete or cryptic up-front communication which leads to frustration, a job not done well the first time, rework, and a reluctance to delegate next time.

Use the following questions to ensure delegation success:

  • What does the outcome look like?
  • When specifically do you need it?
  • What’s the budget?
  • What resources do they get or what resources should they be using?
  • What decisions can they make before seeking approval?
  • What are the checkpoints along the way?
  • How will you both know and measure how well the task is done?

Now that you know the four key questions and their answers and can use delegation techniques effectively, just do it!  That’s all it will take for you to the “the best” at employing delegation skills.

Image: renjith krishnan /