Skip to content
All posts

The Importance of Delegation in Management & Development (& Sanity)

Graphic Showing Truck Unloading BoxesDelegating. Some supervisors do it too much, dumping anything and everything on direct reports without thinking it through. Others don’t do it enough, often because they don’t trust anyone else to do things “their way.” But the importance of delegation in management can’t be understated -- both for your direct reports and for you.

So, what is the right mix? And what are the appropriate tasks to delegate?

The Importance of Delegation in Management

Remember that delegating is all about improving workflow and capacity, not only about managing your own workload. Here’s what what you should expect from this shifting of responsibilities:

  • A more productive you
  • More time to focus on strategy rather than day-to-day deliverables
  • More time to develop as a leader
  • A more efficient and effective team
  • More motivation and fulfillment
  • New skills development in team members

Sounds good, right?

How to Actually Do It

First off, stop trying to solve everyone else’s problems.

You can’t be the answer for everything. A time will come when you’re out of office -- maybe for a day, maybe for a month. If you’re not delegating, you’ll have no backup plan for these situations.

To get you started, here are the eight steps to effective delegation:

  1. Selecting a delegate for an assignment
  2. Granting sufficient authority to handle the task
  3. Setting clear and specific goals and procedures
  4. Enabling the delegate to achieve the goals
  5. Being a resource to support the delegate
  6. Assessing the delegate’s performance
  7. Giving recognition for contributions made
  8. Maintaining responsibility for outcomes

With every task you do, stop and think before going on autopilot and doing it yourself Is there someone else with less to do? Who on the team would benefit from practicing this task? Who might actually enjoy doing this task or offer a new idea about how to tackle it?

Whoever you choose, make sure they understand why they’re getting this task. Explain that you want to give them development opportunities, that you believe they’re ready for more. This could change the employee’s response from eye-rolling resentment to a feeling of excitement and hope.

Caution! Delegating Is Tricky

Delegating requires delicacy both during and after the act of doing it.

  • Don’t delegate hiring, firing, or feedback to ANYONE.
  • If you’re handing a task off to someone not used to such a task, don’t expect perfection.
  • Balance your involvement -- don’t micromanage, but don’t check out, either.
  • Don’t take back the task unless you absolutely have to.

It’s natural to have lingering doubts about whether you should leave a responsibility in another person’s hands. That’s why it’s crucial you weigh difficulty vs. stakes.

The difficulty of a delegated task should be just a hair beyond the current abilities of your delegate. Realistic, but challenging. That’s how people grow. As for the stakes, make sure they aren’t too high. For example, you don’t want to hand an HTML task to a web design intern if failure means the customer’s site crashes and you lose future business.

Fortunately, these risks can be mitigated if you delegate to someone who:

  • Is open to learning and challenges
  • Will communicate with you
  • Has a solid track record
  • Could be a bigger contributor in the future

If a screw-up does occur, don’t penalize the guilty party disproportionately. Show your own past mistakes and model how you learned from them.

Delegation Is a Long-Term Strategy

It’s OK to delegate! By delegating gradually, with clear instructions, and most importantly with demonstrated appreciation of those who are taking on new tasks, you’ll breathe more easily.

These are the conversations that will make your team better in the long run, even if it involves some short-term growing pains.

To learn more about having productive Workplace Conversations as a supervisor at any level, try our new, self-paced e-learning tool. Click the button below to get started today.

Screenshot 2023-12-14 195648