Delegation: The assignment of responsibility or authority to another person (normally from a manager to one of his/her employees) to carry out specific activities. However, the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work. It is one of the core concepts of management leadership.
Whether you are a newer manager or have been one for several years, learning to let go and delegate to others or your team members can be challenging. When I first became a supervisor, I felt the need to not only continue doing my existing duties, but also handle the new ones associated with management. My desire to always do things myself got so bad that because I rarely said “no”, I was consistently coming into work at 5:00 am in the morning and staying until dinnertime to complete my tasks, then I would go home and monitor/respond to emails, as well as go into the office on weekends, as needed. It quickly increased my stress and anxiety, as well as put a strain on my personal relationships.
Some of the reasons people may not want to delegate have to do with time (“It’s just easier and will get done faster if I do it myself”), control (“I want it done my way”), fear (“I’m afraid I’ll lose my job if it doesn’t look like I’m busy” or “What if someone does it better than me?”), pride (“Look at how well I do this task”), courtesy (“I will help out the team and company by not adding this to someone else’s place”), or the status quo (“This is how other managers do things around here”).
Delegating tasks can certainly be difficult and is still something I struggle with, but it makes a huge difference in your career and how you are seen as a leader. In order to prepare for delegating a task to someone, keep in mind this handy checklist from SHRM (more detail about each item can be found in the “Suggested Resources” section below):
#1. Keep a delegation attitude.
#2. Define the desired outcome.
#3. Select the person.
#4. Get input from others.
#5. Assign the responsibility and define the time factors.
#6. Provide training and guidance.
#7. Define the authority level.
#8. Agree about the control process.
#9. Monitor progress.
#10. Provide feedback.
#11. Identify the lessons learned.
#12. Evaluate performance.
Ultimately, delegating is about figuring out what needs to be done, finding the right people to do it, clearly communicating what you are looking for, following up to ensure you are getting results, and increasing accountability. By finding the appropriate level of involvement at each stage and being consistently communicative with your team at each stage is simply good management.
“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”
― John C. Maxwell
What are your thoughts? Do you have other suggestions? Do you have any personal stories you are willing to share? Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences below.
Jeremy S. joined Empathia in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services and currently serves as Account Manager/Sales Consultant. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Development. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of managerial/leadership roles at another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music and spending time with his wife and daughters.