The Significance of Delegation

Condensed from articles by Gaurav Akrani, PreserveArticle, TheGuardian, Leadershipnow, Smriti Chand, James A. Baker, Lincoln Mel Hughes, Christopher Gould, Robert Tanner, Susanne Madsen, Michelle Randall, Srikanth Krishnamoorthy and Susan M. Heathfield 

Understanding the Concept 

The process of assignment of specific work to individuals within the organization and giving them the right to perform those works is delegation. Delegation of authority is a significant concept that has an effect on managerial functions. The expansion of business volume and diversification of line of business makes it impracticable to handle all the business by a single manager. Therefore, the concept of delegation of some managerial authority to subordinates comes into practice in present day business organizations. 

3 Main Elements of Delegation

Three essential and significant elements should function hand in glove for effective delegation. These inter dependent elements are:

  • Assignment of Duty – Duty is that which a person is bound by obligation to do things
  • Granting of Authority – Authority is 'the right to give orders and the power to extract obedience
  • Creation of Accountability – Obligation is ‘the feeling of moral compulsion for accomplishing the duties

Main Features of Delegation of Authority 

Effective delegation tends to promote a high morale as it serves as a strong stimulus to perform. It facilitates the evaluation of performance and definite fixing of responsibility by developing discipline as a means of control. According to McFarland, delegation is attended by following features:

  • Delegation involves taking decision about the logical and meaningful units of work into which the overall duties of the delegator can be broken up.
  • It involves a correct assessment of the span of supervision, which the delegator would be able to effectively control.
  • Delegation of authority to handle a job is also accompanied by authorization of the delegate (subordinate) to call for and use resources necessary for executing the task.
  • Delegation is always accompanied by ‘Accountability’, which signifies the obligation or answerability of the delegate for proper accomplishment of responsibility.
  • Delegation of authority is strengthened by the feature of detailed and exhaustive records of performance of each of the delegates. 

Effective Delegation Skills

Delegation is one of the main offshoots of effective management. It is giving others the authority to act on your behalf, accompanied with responsibility and accountability for results. 
The delegation process involves Assessing, Assigning, Appraising and Affirming
Three basic but major skills needed to be an effective delegator are:

  • Trust – Believe in the people you delegate to
  • Communication – Clearly articulate what you need done
  • Honesty – Be honest with what your expectations are

What Delegation Can Do For You

Here are compelling reasons for you to start delegating if you are not - or to delegate even more if you are.

  • It frees up time for planning and organizing – Most managers would like to have more time to get a hold on planning and organization. 
  • It helps you learn how to manage employees – If you know what you want to accomplish, learning how to delegate effectively is an important step towards becoming a better manager and having a better team.
  • It keeps you from spreading yourself too thin – If you cannot manage your own workload, you cannot hope to manage anything else.
  • It encourages open communication and trust – If you delegate to your team members and remain open for questions, you build the two-way trust quotient. A team built on trust and open communication is poised for success.
  • It can show you a better way. Employees who take over a process or job may have a completely novel approach, and sometimes it is a major improvement! There is tremendous scope for innovation.

What Delegation Can Do For Your Team Members

  •  It motivates and builds morale – Employees find it gratifying when they are delegated tasks by their managers. For most, this is a sign that they are valued and trusted.
  • It encourages and stimulates creativity and initiative – If employees feel empowered to accomplish delegated tasks in their unique style, they can become both very creative and driven to succeed. 
  • It develops their skills – Developing your employees through delegation and helping them to learn new skills not only benefits them, but equips your organization with more qualified and better trained personnel.
  • It allows them to contribute significantly to team success – Your employees will relish the prestige and recognition that comes with doing something that makes a difference. They will experience pride and a sense of accomplishment from making a significant contribution.

Factors determining Delegation

Delegation is a great way to ensure that more tasks are done in less time, and it builds team capacity. Unfortunately, many managers do not pay enough attention to the delegation process, and thus fail to reap the benefits. However, the predominant problem is that most managers complain that their employees are not good enough to get the job done. Getting outstanding results through delegation necessitates following a formula.

Here are the parameters you should work through to master the formula:

  • Prepare: Employees can’t deliver quality results if the task delegated to them isn’t fully thought out, or if expectations keep changing. Take time to develop a structure and map out exactly what you’re asking for. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Confirm understanding: One of the most common mistakes made in delegating is assuming that employees understand what you want, rather than making sure that they do. Confirming understanding only takes about 60 seconds, but is the most important determinant of success or failure. The best way to confirm understanding is to ask your employees to paraphrase the request or assignment in their own words. 
  • Confirm commitment: This is another part of the delegation process that most managers skip. They often just assume that employees have accepted the tasks they’ve been given. The most important part of a relay race is the handing of the baton to the next runner. Commitment means making sure you’ve successfully handed over the baton. Confirm that employees are committed to the expected results. 
  • Ensure Accountability: Accountability is imperative to the process of delegation: It means employees are regularly communicating with you about the status of the deliverable and the timing of delivery so that there are no surprises at the eleventh hour. The delegation process becomes faster and more fluid the more you do it. Once you’ve mastered it, it will become a part of your managerial DNA, and you’ll consistently reap outstanding results.
  • Avoid “reverse delegating”: Many a times, managers end up completing tasks they had delegated to others, because those tasks somehow end up back on their plate. I call this “reverse delegating.” It’s rarely, if ever, necessary for a manager to take back a task that he or she had delegated to someone else. Coach the employee through it, making sure he or she has the resources and knowledge needed to complete the task. The bottom line? Don’t take tasks back.

How to Direct and Delegate Effectively
Delegating helps you free yourself up to focus on other important matters, and at the same time grow and develop the team. One of the most elegant ways to delegate is to give people work that they genuinely find motivating. '

Everyone who joins your team will have a different set of strengths and weaknesses and you will have to take account of that if you want them to thrive and contribute with everything that they have. Your approach as a leader must change accordingly. In which ways will this assignment contribute to his or her success and help them develop their skills? When you delegate tasks really considering what is in it for the individual, you will find that they quickly become self-directed. 

  • Adapt your style to people’s level of motivation and experience: To adapt your style – and know how to effectively direct a new person on your team – first establish what the needs for support and direction are of the person you want to manage. Their need will depend on their job-related skills and experience on the one hand and on their personal motivation, drive and commitment on the other. 
  • Nurture: When you nurture someone, you offer the individual a lot of support and praise in addition to precise direction. Explain decisions, listen to their concerns, provide perspective, and praise progress. Involve them in decision-making and show them how to do things to restore their confidence and competence.
  • Be mindful of new joiners: As the team member is new in the job, he is likely to need more support and direction than he might otherwise – if only for a short amount of time. It is far better to be over-attentive early on and to gradually take a step back as you see that he masters the assignment. 
  • Motivate: When a new person joins, your team there is a big chance that they are highly motivated to get on with the job. However, they may in some ways hold themselves back and could need your encouragement in order to perform at their best. In order to ascertain someone’s level of motivation, get a feel for how driven they are and how likely they are to be proactive and make things happen. 
  • Encourage: When you encourage someone, you offer a lot of support and praise without giving a lot of direction. This type of encouragement helps people who are competent and skillful, but who are also discouraged or lack confidence in their own abilities. They need a lot of support and recognition from you to improve their confidence; they need hardly any direction.

Remember, delegation is not just a convenient way to shuffle off simple tasks that you dislike doing. Delegation is not nominally giving someone a job and then micromanaging every stage of the project. Delegation is providing employees a job to do within basic parameters and giving them the authority to make their own decisions. Offer support and training as necessary, but allow your team members a degree of autonomy and ownership if you really want to profit from this beneficial exercise.


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