When to Delegate and When Not to Delegate

Delegation is a crucial aspect of managing any business, team, or group of people. If you are serious about doing a good job at overseeing a team of individuals, you need to realize that you cannot do everything yourself. When delegation is done properly it can save time, develop the team you are working with, and motivates individuals to give their best. Delegation is also beneficial when trying to groom a successor to the leader, and encouraging employees to seek promotions and greater responsibility.

Chain of Leadership

At any business, multi national company or team, having a succession platform is crucial to the continued progress of the team. By delegating tasks effectively, more members of the team assume intense and complicated tasks. Not only will this increase their knowledge of the industry, but it adds to their personal responsibility to the team. If the team’s leader assumes all tasks, everyone else will be unprepared when he/she departs.

When done correctly, delegation can serve a dual purpose. Not only will it allow the boss free time to oversee the team, but it grooms other employees for higher posts in the future. For example, the marketing manager at a multi national company will only be ready to take over the marketing director’s post if he is groomed in the right manner. If the marketing director takes on every important task, the marketing manager will be grossly unprepared for a promotion at that company or anywhere else.

Steps of Successful Delegation:

Assess a Team’s Ability

After the task at hand is defined, and a team has been selected, it is time to assess their performance levels. A team should always be chosen based on their individual quality, and their ability to gel together. Selecting five intelligent individuals who do not get along will end in disaster. Similarly, selecting five average employees simply because they are friends is a mistake. A balance between the two will bring out the best in a team. When they begin working, a leader must assess their performance levels, identify the weak points of the team, and give greater responsibility to those who are excelling.

Create Clear Goals

A team cannot function unless they understand what they are supposed to achieve. While a leader might want to keep certain facts to himself, giving the team an idea of where they need to progress is essential. Not only will this motivate them, but it will ensure that they work in a particular direction. Deadlines must also be agreed in detail. Unless there is an emergency situation, changing deadlines on a team at the last minute will have a severe negative impact on their morale.

Communicate and Provide Clear Feedback

Ensure that there is an effective chain of communication. This will ensure that a leader does not need to say the same thing two or three times, and it creates a reliable no.2 and no.3. The leader will specify a change in circumstances, or an update on their progress, to the no.2 and/or no.3 in charge. They will communicate this information to the rest of the team. This will ensure the team runs smoothly, and groom the no.2 and no.3 individuals as potential successors to the leader.

Delegation Levels

Having to delegate is not an easy task, especially when you need to consider how many tasks should be delegated to each individual in the team. Too many view delegation as a master/servant relationship. The master informs the servant what must be done, and they ensure that the task is completed. This is a method that almost never works. Being polite while handing out tasks is also important, because it creates a positive relationship between the team and their leader. The person in charge of a team should always have his/her door open to anyone who has questions or concerns. If an employee feels they have been given too much responsibility, or too less, they should feel comfortable in mentioning this.

Delegation is a scenario that is full of shades of grey. Everything is complicated, and each team must be handled in a different manner. Depending on the personalities of the individuals involved, a leader must decide whether they need to be firm, aggressive, or encouraging. Some employees prefer kind words and a pat on the back, while others respond better to demands given in an aggressive tone. No matter what the approach taken, it is vital that all employees know exactly what is expected of them. Each task should be explained in detail, otherwise you will be left with team members who are unsure of what needs to be done.

Creating levels of responsibility will create a hierarchy within the team. Every team will be ladled with different personalities. Those who have increased ambitions will revel in increased responsibility, while some may prefer to stay in the background and complete the tasks given to them. Ensure that you have correctly identified these individuals, and given them the responsibility to suit their level of work and personality. Giving increased responsibility to the wrong individuals in a team can be as costly as not delegating at all.

Examples of Delegation Levels

  1. If you inform someone to “wait until you are told what to do” or “do precisely what I have instructed”, it means you are giving them minimal flexibility. These are direct orders, and must be followed as such.
  2. “Look into a particular situation and report your thoughts back to me.” This means that you are interested in what your team member thinks, but you wish to make the final decision on the matter. There is the increased responsibility of them providing an opinion, but the ultimate decision rests with the team leader.
  3. “Look into the situation and report your findings. We will sit down and make a decision together.” This is a similar statement to the one above, but with added responsibility for the team member in question. You want to be a part of the decision as you are the leader, but you are giving the other individual a 50% share of the final decision.
  4. “Assess the situation and give me a detailed report on what you think we should do.” This gives them added freedom, because they are meant to assess what is going on, analyze their findings, and create a coherent solution. While you may have the ultimate responsibility, the team member in question will feel as though they are in charge of this particular task’s conclusion.
  5. “Assess the situation, and make a final decision on what to do. Unless I come to you with a different solution, go ahead and implement your ideas as soon as possible.”

This is as close as a leader can get to delegating complete responsibility. You have highlighted a problem that your company/business/team is facing, and you have instructed a trusted employee with the discovery of its solution. This employee may come up with the solution alone, or he/she may consult the rest of the team before taking a final decision.

The delegation in this case is a very positive one. You are not instructing someone to complete a task, but giving them an opportunity to show what they can accomplish. If their solution does not pan out, you will know that they cannot be trusted with such responsibility in the future. However, success for them would mean that they are a worthy no.2 and in line as a potential successor to the leader.

No matter how delegation is accomplished, it is vital that it occurs. There is no team that can function with one or two people carrying the bulk of the responsibility. If a team has 20 individuals who are hard working, creative, and intelligent, they must all be utilized effectively. Not only will this create a camaraderie with the group, but it will ensure that the tasks are completed quicker and in a high quality manner.

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