Delegation is assigning responsibility for tasks and decisions to others and providing them with the authority and support they need to complete those tasks successfully. It is a key leadership skill, as it allows leaders to distribute work and decision-making among team members and to leverage the skills, experience, and expertise of others to achieve results.
Effective delegation involves identifying the tasks and decisions that can be delegated, choosing the right person to delegate to, providing clear instructions and expectations, and providing support and guidance as needed. It also involves monitoring and reviewing the progress of delegated tasks and providing feedback and coaching to help team members develop their skills and capabilities.
By understanding how to delegate effectively, leaders can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their teams and create a more collaborative and empowered work environment. This learning topic will explore the principles and practices of effective delegation and provide guidance on achieving results using delegation.
Models of delegation
Several delegation models have been developed to help leaders understand and apply effective delegation practices. Two of the most well-known models are the Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum and Tuckman’s four-stage model.
The Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum is a model of delegation that describes the relationship between a leader and a subordinate in terms of the level of authority and responsibility delegated. The continuum ranges from autocracy, in which the leader retains complete control and makes all decisions, to delegation, in which the leader transfers authority and responsibility to the subordinate. In between these two extremes are various levels of delegation, such as consultation, in which the leader seeks input from the subordinate before making a decision, and shared decision-making, in which the leader and the subordinate make decisions together.
Tuckman’s four-stage model is a model of a delegation that describes the process of delegation in terms of four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing. In the forming stage, the leader and the subordinate get to know each other and establish the parameters of the delegated task. In the storming stage, the subordinate may express resistance or uncertainty about the delegated task, and the leader may need support and guidance. In the norming stage, the subordinate understands the task and the leader’s expectations and works towards achieving the delegated goal. In the performing stage, the subordinate completes the delegated task successfully, and the leader provides feedback and recognition.
Features of delegation
Delegation involves assigning responsibility for tasks and decisions to others and providing them with the authority and support they need to complete those tasks successfully.
The key features of delegation include task definition, goal planning, team/person selection, assessment of team/person capability, the rationale for the delegation, and target setting.
- Task definition involves clearly defining the specific tasks and decisions being delegated, as well as the objectives and goals of the delegation. This includes identifying the expected outcomes from the delegated tasks and the criteria used to evaluate their success.
- Goal planning involves setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for the delegated tasks and establishing a plan for achieving those goals. This includes identifying the steps and resources required to complete the delegated tasks and establishing deadlines and milestones for progress.
- Team/person selection involves choosing the right person or team to delegate to based on their skills, experience, and expertise. This involves considering the specific requirements of the delegated tasks, as well as the capabilities and preferences of potential delegates.
- Assessment of team/person capability involves evaluating the ability of the chosen employee to complete the delegated tasks successfully. This may involve conducting interviews, assessments, or other evaluations to determine whether the employee has the necessary skills, experience, and motivation to complete the delegated tasks.
- The rationale for the delegation involves providing the employee with a clear understanding of the reasons for the delegation and the expected outcomes and benefits. This may include explaining the strategic importance of the delegated tasks and how they fit into the overall goals and objectives of the organisation.
- Target setting involves establishing specific targets or benchmarks for the delegated tasks and providing the delegate with the support and resources they need to achieve those targets. This may include setting performance goals, providing training or development opportunities, and providing ongoing feedback and support.
Monitoring and reporting tools and techniques
Monitoring tools and reporting techniques are used to track the progress and performance of delegated tasks and activities. These tools and techniques provide leaders with the information they need to ensure that delegated tasks are being completed effectively and efficiently and to identify any issues or problems that may require intervention or support.
- Observation: One common monitoring tool is activity management by observation, in which the leader observes the employee as they perform the delegated tasks. This can provide valuable insight into the employee’s performance and help the leader identify areas for improvement or support.
- Checklists: Another monitoring tool is checklists, which provide a step-by-step guide for completing the delegated tasks. Checklists can help employees to stay on track and ensure that all necessary steps are completed, and they can also provide the leader with a clear overview of the employees’ progress.
- Updates and reports: Updates and reports are also commonly used as monitoring tools. These can be provided by the employee and include information on the status of the delegated tasks, any challenges or issues that have arisen, and any progress or achievements to date.
- Self-assessment: Self-assessment is another monitoring technique that can be used in delegation. This involves providing the employee with a set of criteria or standards against which they can evaluate their performance and then providing feedback and support based on their self-assessment.
Factors affecting success
Several factors can affect the success of delegated activities, including the knowledge, experience, and expectations of those involved, the clarity of instructions, access to resources, and time management.
- Knowledge and experience: The knowledge, experience, and expectations of those involved in delegated activities are critical for ensuring their success. Employees must have the necessary knowledge and expertise to complete the delegated tasks effectively and must be able to apply that knowledge in practice. They must also have sufficient experience to understand the delegated tasks’ context and challenges and be motivated and engaged in their work. Finally, they must have clear expectations about their roles, responsibilities, and goals and be provided with the support and resources needed to achieve those expectations.
- Instructions: Clarity of instructions is also essential for the success of delegated activities. Delegated tasks must be clearly defined, and employees must be provided with clear instructions and expectations about completing the tasks. This includes identifying the expected outcomes from the delegated tasks and the criteria used to evaluate their success.
- Resources: Access to resources is another key factor in the success of delegated activities. Employees must be provided with the resources they need to complete the delegated tasks effectively, such as equipment, information, and support. Without adequate resources, employees may be unable to complete the tasks to the required standard or may experience delays or setbacks.
- Time management: Time management is also important for the success of delegated activities. Employees must be given adequate time to complete the delegated tasks and must be provided with clear deadlines and milestones for progress. Effective time management can help to ensure that delegated tasks are completed on time and to the required standard.
Benefits of delegation
Appropriate delegation has several benefits for the individual, team, and organisation. These benefits include more productive use of the leader’s time, development opportunities for team members, greater team cohesion, and improved productivity.
- Leader productivity: One key benefit of appropriate delegation is that it allows the leader to make more productive use of their time. By delegating tasks and decisions to others, the leader can focus on more important tasks, such as strategic planning and decision-making. This can help the leader be more effective and efficient in their role and free up their time to focus on more important and high-impact activities.
- Employee development: Another benefit of appropriate delegation is that it provides development opportunities for team members who take on new tasks and responsibilities. Delegating tasks and decisions to others allows team members to gain new skills, experience, and expertise and can help to build their confidence and capabilities. This can have long-term benefits for the team and the organisation, as it can help to develop a more skilled and capable workforce.
- Cohesion and collaboration: Another benefit of appropriate delegation is improving team cohesion and collaboration. By involving team members in decision-making and task completion, delegation can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment among team members and encourage them to work together more closely and effectively. This can help to build stronger relationships and a more cohesive team, which can, in turn, improve team performance and productivity.
- Organisational productivity: Delegation can improve overall organisational productivity. By distributing tasks and decisions among team members, delegation can help to ensure that work is completed more efficiently and effectively. This can improve productivity and performance and help the organisation achieve its goals and objectives more quickly and effectively.
Risks of delegation
Delegation can involve certain risks for the individual, team, and organisation, including the possibility that tasks may not be completed to the required standard, the potential loss of the leader’s time if they need to check and redo the work, the potential burden on individuals who take on extra work without adequate recompense, and possible tensions within the team if delegation is not perceived as fair or equal.
- Standards: One potential risk of delegation is that tasks may not be completed to the required standard. This can occur if the employee does not have the necessary skills, experience, or knowledge to complete the tasks effectively or is not provided with adequate instructions, support, or resources. In such cases, the delegated tasks may be incomplete, inaccurate, or of poor quality, which can negatively affect the individual, team, and organisation.
- Loss of time: Another potential risk of delegation is a loss of the leader’s time if they need to check and redo the work. This can occur if the delegated tasks are not completed to the required standard or if the employee does not provide timely or adequate updates or reports on their progress. In such cases, the leader may need to spend additional time and effort checking and redoing the work, which can be time-consuming and unproductive.
- Additional burden: Another risk of delegation is the potential burden on individuals who take on extra work without adequate recompense. Delegation can involve assigning additional tasks and responsibilities to team members, which can require them to work longer hours or take on additional workloads. If these extra tasks and responsibilities are not adequately compensated, team members may feel overworked and undervalued, leading to morale and engagement issues within the team.
- Increased tension: Delegation may lead to tensions within the team if delegation is not perceived as fair or equal. This can occur if some team members take on additional tasks without being offered the same opportunities as others or if certain individuals are given more responsibilities than others. In such cases, there may be resentment among team members, resulting in conflict and disputes that harm teamwork and cohesion within the group.
To mitigate these risks, leaders should carefully consider each task before delegating it, assess team members’ skills and experience to determine who is best suited for each assignment, provide clear instructions and support to ensure effective implementation of delegated tasks, regularly check on progress and provide timely feedback when needed, and distribute workloads fairly among team members. By taking these steps, leaders can minimise the risks associated with delegation and maximise its benefits for individuals, teams, and organisations.