How to Delegate - 6 Key Steps

Knowing how to delegate is important. Whether you are an executive or a stay-at-home parent, the art of delegating is a critical skill that boosts your effectiveness. Whether you want to use delegation as a training tool or to free up your time for more important work there are six essential steps.

These include:

  1. Getting rid of your ego
  2. Knowing what to delegate
  3. Choosing the right person
  4. Communicating the delegated task
  5. Monitoring and providing feedback
  6. Review

1. Getting rid of the ego

When I ask people about the importance of delegation they usually respond "Yes delegation is important but I don't because my experience is different."

Delegation is one of the most talked about but under utilized tools of time management. There are a number of reasons why people avoid effective delegation.

Some common reasons for avoiding delegation are:

  • "I don't want to give up control" or
  • "I don't have the confidence that others can do it".

But these excuses are just that. Delegation gives you the opportunity to pursue more important work and also train and engage your staff around you.

2. What can I delegate?

When deciding to delegate work it is important to develop clarity about the tasks you want to delegate and the skills to get the job done. In this task analysis, ask yourself the following questions when deciding to delegate work:

  • What resources/equipment are required for the task? Is it necessary to provide training for your colleagues before you delegate the task?
  • What skills are required for the delegated task?

For example, does the task involve writing or decision-making abilities? Perhaps the delegated task may involve communication skills with suppliers, clients and/or consultants.

When deciding to how to delegate work or delegate tasks, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are there tasks that others can learn from and perhaps do more efficiently/cost effectively?
  2. Do you dislike the work or task that you are considering to delegate?
  3. Is the potential delegated task important to you and your goals.?

If you answered an overwhelming "Yes" to the first two questions and "No" to the last question, then this task could be a likely candidate for successful delegation.

3. How to delegate to the right person

how to delegate

Choosing the right person to delegate to is important.

If you are pushed for time, then it is likely that you want to delegate work to the most experienced person who requires the least training. BUT this may not be a good long-term strategy.

The person who has the ability to do the task may need training or mentoring which in turn increases the depth of skills you can draw upon. Other important questions to ask for successful delegation are:

  • Which employees have expressed a desire to learn?
  • Which people have an interest in the skill sets that you are looking for?

Asking these types of questions allows you to more easily match the person with the delegated work, and make the transition easier.

Before you delegate work, an important consideration is: What is the person’s workload? It is no good giving a task to an already overworked subordinate. This only results in stress, frustration, and eventual burnout!

Effective delegation may involve delegating to two people with different skills to get the task done. For example, if you need a brochure or catalog to be written up and one person has great writing ability and another person has great graphics skills, then consider the possibility of delegating this job to both people.

4. Communicating the delegated task

How to delegate is really a lesson in communication. You need to communicate the delegated work clearly to the person you are delegating to. If possible, this should be done in a face-to-face meeting.

When communicating, people often ask themselves "What’s in it for me?" (WIFM)!

Use positive and beneficial language. When you delegate work, try to use positive language that highlights the benefits to the individual while remaining realistic. Throughout, ask the other person for their input into the delegated task and objectives. The sooner that you empower the person in the shared responsibility of the task the more likely their motivation will increase.

Discuss the task in detail. If you do not understand the task that needs to be done, then it is unlikely the person you are delegating it to will understand. Clearly and succinctly state what your expectations are for the task and how the performance of the task is to be measured.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the levels of accountability?
  • Are there measures of success?
  • What resources are available?

What are the deadlines? A deadline creates a priority. Without a deadline the task fills the time. Try to create status review deadlines in addition to final deadlines. Make sure these deadlines are written down in a planner or personal time management system, and agreed to. Make yourself available for further questions.

5. Monitor and provide feedback

Knowing how to delegate does not stop once the task has been delegate. You need to clearly identify the status review dates and the reporting method required.

Give feedback. Your delegation skills are enhanced by giving clear feedback on the delegated work. Provide positive feedback and constructive criticism with ways that things can be improved. I recommend the "sandwich technique" - put a constructive criticism between two positive feedbacks.

Give credit where credit is due. If the task is not done satisfactorily, or you think that you could have delegated more effectively, question whether your requests were unreasonable?

Self reflect. Delegation is a learned skill and takes time to do well. Ask yourself:

  • Did I delegate work to the right person?
  • When I delegate tasks could my communication be better?
  • Did the person benefit from being delegated to?
  • Am I better able to identify task duration. If you know the task duration then add 50% onto this scheduled task if it requires training.
  • Are there any time management tools that I could use to leverage my time?

6. Review the delegated work

Set up a meeting so that both of you can review the completed task. What went right and could things have been improved?

Knowing how to delegate involves communicating in a positive way the achievements of the employee, and make sure that the employee is recognized by the other staff/clients for their work. Ask the employee what they got out of the task.

Does the experience highlight any skill gaps that could be corrected though ongoing training? Provide any criticism in a constructive and sensitive manner.

If you liked this article on how to delegate then you will also like the following articles on time management:

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