Delegation: How to Delegate Effectively?

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Delegation: How to Delegate Effectively?
Genevieve Northup, Editor, Germany

Fayol’s 13nd principle ("Initiative") is linked to the management role of delegator. Kreitner (2009) defines "delegation" as: the transfer of decision-making authority to subordinates (p. 253).

Sadly, many managers mistake passing on “tasks,” not “responsibilities” as delegation (Gallo, 2012). The result is overstressed managers and less satisfied employees who do not believe they have “ownership” of projects (Gallo, 2012). As a result, initiative is low.

Pfeffer (as cited in Gallo, 2012) explains that managers are often trapped in the “self-enhancement bias,” afraid they may appear as less integral to corporate success if they delegate. Introspection is necessary to accept and overcome this issue, recognizing that the greater benefit comes from delegating, which gives managers to have more time to address critical issues and subordinates feel like they are a part of the big picture.

Kreitner (2009) emphasized that delegation is not an “all-or-nothing proposition” and managers can ease into the process (p. 253). There are several degrees of delegation, beginning with asking employees to research issues and report findings to managers and ending with allowing employees to research issues, and develop and implement solutions (Kreitner, 2009, P. 253).

Through proper delegation, employee initiative is cultivated and competencies are leveraged for organizational success.

Gallo (2012) said that managers should implement the following tips for effective delegation:
  1. SELECT RIGHT PEOPLE: Select employees with the knowledge and willpower to take on responsibilities.
  2. BE ACCOUNTABLE: Give your direct reports permission to hold you as their manager accountable for delegating properly and include such role in their annual performance appraisal.
  3. ENABLE: “Really let go”, by giving employees the tools and training to take on projects and make decisions from start to finish.
⇒ If you have any additional tips or suggestions on delegation, please share…

Gallow, Amy. (2012, July 26). Why Aren’t you Delegating? Harvard Business Review, July 2012
Kreitner, R. (2009). Management. (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin

First Clarify the Expected Results, then Delegate
Javier Elenes, Business Consultant, Mexico
I recommend to start by clarifying the expected results, and then delegate, so:
1. Clarify the "expected results" and get a commitment (in writing).
2. Verify the capabilities of people, and equipment systems.
3. Follow up in order to detect minor deviations, when there is still time to take correctives actions.

Mentoring Before Delegating
srinivas, Test Manager, India
In my view, sufficient preparation and mentoring need to happen before effective delegation happens.
Delegating is like lighting up an oil lamp up with an another oil lamp which is already lit:
  • A sufficient amount of PREPARATION is needed with regard to a lamp which needs to lighted up (the one who is getting delegated to). Such as: having oil, a dry wick, and an oil lamp. These are the capabilities the people and the equipment need to have.
  • Also MENTORING (lighting up the wick with an already existing lit lamp) is needed so that all functions which were performed by the earlier lamp can be performed by the new lamp (including the transfer of tasks, decision making etc). To be effective I think it is something like igniting the consciousness of being of the delegee by the delegator by way of mentoring. So consider: do we have process for it? And what are qualifications for the mentor?

Tips on How to Delegate Effectively
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Thank you Genevieve. The ability to delegate well is crucial for any manager.
For some people delegating comes quite naturally, probably because they are easy to trust others in their ability to perform delegated tasks well, or because they understand in a more rational way that delegation increases their span of control, or perhaps simply because they don't like to perform the tasks themselves. I heard someone say once: "A good manager is lazy." ☺

My first tip on delegating properly is to avoid making the classical mistake of just delegating the task, or even the task plus the responsibility. You must also transfer the corresponding authority (power to direct others when related to the task, take decisions related to the task) and resources (budget, use of non-financial resources for the task) to allow the "delegee" (the individual whom is assigned the task, project or mission) to actually TAKE responsibility.

And my second tip to delegate well is that even if you delegate something as a manager, you remain ultimately responsible (accountable) for the result. This includes your responsibility to guide and assist the delegee so that he or she can be successful in accomplishing the task.

In other words: when you're delegating, the following 5 things: Tasks, Responsibilities, Authority, Resources and Coaching are inextricably connected to each other.

If you as a manager include the last 3 things when you're delegating, this will make your employee feel trusted and supported by you. You can expect employee moral, ownership, initiative and innovation to increase.

But if you as a manager do not include authority, resources and coaching when you're delegating, you're asking the impossible of your employee and risk frustration, because she or he is likely to be unable to perform the task properly. You can expect employee moral, ownership, initiative and innovation to decline.

Delegation as a Negative Tactic
Mike Walsh, Lecturer, United Kingdom
Delegation should be a positive and enabling experience but assumes the delegator is behaving in a morally, legally and socially acceptable way. From experience, this may not always be the case. Delegation may harm the delegated by transferring to them a liability the delegator wants to get rid of, or even as a deliberate tactic aimed at causing harm.

Why Should You Delegate?
Andrew Blaine, Business Consultant, South Africa
The primary reason for delegating is to permit the delegator to concentrate on more valuable tasks while less valuable aspects of responsibility can be addressed by subordinates under the guidance and management of the delegating authority. "Empire building" and "Buying in" are of secondary importance.

Delegation - Best Practice
Howell, Strategy Consultant, Canada
I have found the key to successful delegation is coming out of the starting blocks clear and aligned. To do this I use a 3 Question process:
1. What do we hope to accomplish and what would success look like?
2. What key strategies and tactics will be used?
3. What issues, obstacles, concerns or assistance could be required?
As in any initiative, ensuring the planning is done first minimizes loss time due to misunderstandings, establishes collaboration and provides criteria to facilitate status updates.

Benefits of Delegation for Both Parties
Otieno, Student (MBA), Kenya
Delegation gives the delegee an opportunity to learn new tasks and responsibilities.
As delegator one has the opportunity to guide and mentor. And of course the delegator acting as a mentor, does even better.

Successful Delegation as a Manager
Abel Anyolo, Student (MBA), Kenya
For a successful delegation, managers need to be courageous and show commitment to the process. They should not fear but strive to ensure their juniors are capacitated to carry out higher roles. They should be motivated by the fact that a good leader guides others in having things done. This way, people will view you as a good and reliable leader who trusts others with responsibilities, guides them through the processes, builds their capacity and ensures that objectives are met sustainably.

Delegation: Mind the Details!
Paolo Pozzi, Business Consultant, Italy
I support @Javier Elenes's points.
In addition I observe the most common mistake is omitting or overlooking a careful evaluation of whether managers can instruct or share (in the delegation process) WITHOUT specifying the details of:
  1. WHAT SPECIFICALLY needs to be accomplished,
  2. HOW it has to be done (operational instructions),
  3. TIMEFRAME: within which date or time,
While keeping the delegation opportunity window open, do not overlook a Risk Evaluation and assure 100% clarity on detailed outcomes.
Once you are sure that your peers (due to previous experience or due to their structural project management capabilities or due to their innate or taught capabilities) can (at the desired level!) address all the needed outcomes, you will not need to go into above details anymore, other than the differential ones compared to a previous task or experience.

Delegation and Leadership
Murty Magda Pane, Lecturer, Indonesia
In my opinion, delegation is always aligned to leadership. But, I still do not have enough knowledge to prove that there is a positive correlation between leadership and the ability to delegate. What are your opinions? Or is there anyone who already has resources about it?

Delegation is a Leadership Style
Shaheen Lakdawalla, Other, United Arab Emirates
Delegation is a leadership style. In my opinion the main steps to delegate succesfully are:
  • Explain what needs to be done and by when.
  • Discuss why it's important.
  • Discuss how it needs to be done.
  • Confirm the employee’s understanding.

How to Delegate Depends of the Type of Organization
Hussain Abdulla, Manager, Bahrain
I think delegation depends on the type of organization or business.
For instance, in the PUBLIC organisation it so difficult to delegate because authority is limited anyhow, while in PRIVATE organizations the process is is more dynamic and interesting for both parties.

RE: Delegation and Leadership
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
@Murty Magda Pane: I don't know if there is actual research to back this up in a quantitative way, but in my opinion the higher you are employed in an organization and the larger the organization is, the better you have to be at delegating.
For example if you are heading a start up company in its initial stage, there is little or no need for delegation. It is most effective and efficient to carry out all tasks yourself. On the other hand, if you are the leader of a large firm, you need to obviously delegate a lot, if not everything, except perhaps the most strategic tasks. Compare also Greiner's growth phases model and Drotter's leadership pipeline.

Delegation and Trust
Rakesh Bhatia, Other, India
Let's define Delegation as: sharing responsibility, giving a sense of ownership, empowering someone to take decisions on your behalf, to deploy resources (which may result in achievement or failure) and, lastly your role as mentor when you delegate something to someone. In other words, you are developing someone who can either support or replace you.
The most important part is the selection of the person to whom you are delegating (right person at right place).
Another important part is, how good you are mentoring and giving directions, and making sure the person achieves whatever is delegated.
In reality, the situations are not perfect. The difficulties begin when you see the person NOT performing as per your expectation. Should you replace him or guide him?
For me, simply delegating is not enough, an important part is mentoring, as under pressure some capable persons may fail also.
In a nut shell, Delegating and Mentoring go hand in hand. Do NOT interphere unnecessary. Guide and let him grow.

Delegation, Leadership and Team Building
Francis Joseph, Director, Dominica
For the purposes of promoting team work, trust, effective work partnership, resource development and shared knowledge delegating is key, if not essential. It needs continuity, shared knowledge and trust as new faces and leaders emerge as people move on to other complimentary work challenges.
As a National Director of a US child development agency and within the government service I have always practised "delegation" as a strength and therefore have established trust and built confidence within me and colleagues with good results within my staff team. Some of us leaders and directors feel sometimes we are the all and will be here forever. But we must feel confident in passing on the baton through delegating and thus create new leaders with enriched visions.

Delegation is a Leadership Style for Poor or Lazy Leaders
Jose A. De las Rivas, Management Consultant, Spain
In my personal point of view, a manager can delegate a task and the authority for carrying out some job, but never the final responsibility. "Traditional" managers often delegate only "brownies". I think in many cases delegation is a leadership style for poor or lazy leaders and is not aimed at enriching coworkers and employees.

Advantages of Delegation for Team Members
fulayi, Other, Zambia
The team leader is not the only one who sees the advantages of delegation. Your teammates will see the following three benefits for themselves.
  1. DEVELOPMENT: When you delegate you will teach your team members new skills and give them the opportunity to develop themselves and achieve their goals. This makes them more versatile and a more important part of your team.
  2. SELF-ESTEEM: When you give a teammate a task, it shows that you have trust and confidence in them. Having interesting and challenging work feels good, and being trusted to complete the job raises self-esteem. Having strong self-esteem can motivate your teammates to accomplish everyone’s goals.
  3. JOB ENHANCEMENT: Having interesting jobs or tasks in a team makes the work more enjoyable. When you give your teammates more responsibility and authority, they will begin to use their own initiative and their imagination. This can lead to new ideas and solutions to problems that you may not even have recognized yet.

When to Delegate or to Hire a Consultant
pradeep deo, Strategy Consultant, India
Effective leadership knows the art of delegation. Before delegation one should have a thorough knowledge of a job so that at times one can do a course correction.
If you do not know the job, do not delegate but hire a consultant.

Delegation Promotes Growth of People
Ranjeet Menon, Project Manager, India
Kotter's 8 steps of transformation can serve as guidelines for effective delegation. I believe delegation is more about sharing responsibilities rather than sharing authority. Rather, delegation would help prepare team members to handle authority. Create milestones and assign authority to team members for making decisions on each milestone. This would encourage team members to take up more responsibilities.
Delegating responsibilities helps team members understand what people at higher levels work on, what interests them and decide on how and where they want to grow: into the management level or take a technical expertise path.
Delegation of work should never be misused as a way to take the load off one person's back and dump it on others. There should be complete clarity on who is assigned what part of the work and the expectations about how and when it should be completed and delivered should also be set clearly.

Empowering Really Helps
Emmanuel Mwirichia, Manager, Kenya
The lack of a structured manner of delegation leads to confused 'delegees' and frustrated delegators.
The delegator needs to clearly articulate the tasks and requirements. And ensure there is capacity or build it up.
I have learnt that by failing to do these things, and then doing them successfully.

Delegation Without Authority is a Miser's Gift
Andrew Blaine, Business Consultant, South Africa
@Ranjeet Menon: If a Manager delegates to a subordinate without giving the selected subordinate the tools with which to complete the delegated task, then the Manager is surely setting the subordinate up for failure? To really delegate, trust and confidence in the person to whom the task is delegated is an essential pre-requisite. If you cannot meet this requirement rather take the responsibility and, if necessary, the brickbats that follow yourself.

Key Aspect of Delegating Authority
Ranjeet Menon, Project Manager, India
@Andrew Blaine: First of all, no responsibility comes without an associated authority. To prepare people to handle authority, they should be first taught to handle responsibilities. Why would a manager have a member in his/her team on whom he/she doesn't have enough trust? That is a prerequisite with every team. My point was about using delegation to grow a team. Would you want to be the manager of a team where you have to delegate authority every time or would you rather prepare your team so that every time a new challenge comes up, you know for sure that at least one person in your team will throw his/her hand up? Taking authority is taking ownership. For me, authority is something that should be earned and not given to me by someone. This comes only with sustained interactions of the manager with the team and with regular amounts of guidance and inspiration. For me, this is what people management is all about, prepare people to take up authority on their own.

Trust and Authority
Andrew Blaine, Business Consultant, South Africa
@Ranjeet Menon: Thank you for your response. May I suggest that in your response you replace "authority" with "Trust" and then consider your response again? Trust is earned and bestowed. It is, in my opinion, not essential that being a member of a team requires trust as this limits the ability of senior managers to deploy subordinates in line with a specified goal, objective or strategic requirement. If I did not trust a subordinate it would not concern me if I had to limit the scope of authority granted and, if this was occasionally or strictly limited, that would become simply a part of my strategic implementation of resources plan.

Delegation Must Be Well Prepared
jorge anibal hoyos hoyos, Manager, Colombia
The employees must be prepared to receive responsibilities in the long run. They must be equipped with "enough wood" to become recipients of delegation. Before delegating, it is mandatory to foresee the aftermath of delegation.

When to Delegate and Why
Ofwono Willy Osinde, Project Manager, Uganda
In most cases, managers delegate when they are pre-occupied with more strategic activities of an organization. The less strategic activities are then delegated to subordinates.
Though this is true in general, in some cases a manager may delegate his subordinate to handle a task where he/she feels the subordinate has a comparative advantage. However, in the latter case, this may be counterproductive in that the subordinate may begin undermining the one who delegated. This is one of the cardinal reasons managers who delegate in areas where they are less informed get problems with the delegee.
To a small extent, I would agree with Jose Delas that delegation is a leadership style for lazy managers though the practice may also be aimed at helping build capacity for the subordinate but only when delegation is handled well.

When to Delegate? It Depends on…
jorge anibal hoyos hoyos, Manager, Colombia
There are I think no clear rules that exist to determine when to delegate since the decision to delegate depends upon many things, like:
  • How trustworthy the person to put in charge of something is.
  • The specific projects to be tackled.
  • The daily responsibilities the people in charge are facing.
  • The need of the higher-ups to entitle others with activities, decisions, actions.
  • Not because of a lazy mindset, but of the intention to guide cut and dried people toward their own development.

Why Managers Should Delegate Responsibilities
mchelu, Teacher, Tanzania
A manager is accountable to delegate responsibilities to:
  • Prepare subordinates for higher managerial positions.
  • Attach subordinates to be part of the organization.
  • Increase the efficiency in the organization.

Re: Delegation is a Leadership Style
Candy Geiger, Other, United States
@Shaheen Lakdawalla: I want to comment/clarify the delegation steps als I I believe Ms Lakdawalla is saying.
  • Explain what needs to be done & by when: The expected end result and deadline.
  • Discuss why it's important: Why delegating was chosen; Where does this fit in the bigger picture; Will this save the company thousands/millions of $$$; Will this bring in millions of $$$ to the company?; Will this be presented to the Bd of Directors?, etc.
  • Discuss how it needs to be done: Strategic points or steps in the process, not a detailed step-by-step instruction; is it a team, or an individual project/effort.
  • Confirm the employee's understanding: Understanding of what needs to be done, when, why, direction, end result, and acceptance of the project and responsibility to follow through. Without acceptance, the delegation fails.


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