Why Delegate & How to

The final test of leadership is to leave behind men and women with the conviction, commitment and competency to carry on ... and this can be accomplished through delegation. Delegation is the on-going process by which a leader assigns additional tasks (i.e., responsibilities and authority) to a subordinate in such a way that there is acceptance of responsibility for the assigned tasks.


Why Delegate

  1. Benefits to the leader
    •   Eased work pressures - not dominated by minor details
    •   Increased time for primary (broader) responsibilities
    •   Increased time for self-development

  2. Benefits to the subordinate
    •   Challenge and interest
    •   Increased motivation
    •   Increased opportunities to learn and grow
The twin goals of delegation are (1) the development of subordinates and (2) the increased effectiveness of the leader.


Why One Manager Does Not Delegate
  • He can do it faster and better.

    Even if this is true, does he have confidence in his ability to get the thing done through others rather than doing it himself? In other words, can he delegate?

  • He thinks his subordinates can't handle the assignment and will make a mess of it.

    Honestly, he does not know unless and until he tries them out; moreover he can train them to do it.

  • It takes too long to train/guide them to do it.

    Yes, it may take a longer time in the short run but he is not investing in the short-term task but in the long-term development of his staff. Moreover, when they can handle the job, he would have more time for his primary responsibilities such as setting departmental/organisational direction and objectives and building teamwork.

  • If he trains his subordinates to do it then wouldn't he become dispensable?

    Isn't that a good thing that you have a replacement ... so that you can be promoted to a higher level in the organisation?
If this manager continues not to delegate, he may be taking a shortcut to the cemetery because the work will be too big and heavy for him to bear alone. Meanwhile, his subordinates will become bored and lose enthusiasm in their jobs.


How to Delegate
  1. Select the task to be delegated and match it to the proper person

    Delegation is not the assignment of routine tasks to anyone who happens to be available. There is a need to assess strengths, weaknesses and previous experience of all available personnel and then match them with tasks that will utilize their strengths and experience.

    Looking again at Moses' criteria in his selection of men to help him in the task of mediation (Exo 18:21-23), we see that he chose spiritually and morally qualified men for the tasks. We too need to look for these same qualities in our potential candidates.

  2. Meet for the initial delegation and motivate

    The key to successful delegation is communication of the importance of the assigned tasks and how they fit into the grand scheme of things. You need to present the tasks from his perspective, "What's in it for me?" In other words, ensure that there is benefit for the person. This is also when you communicate performance expectations and clarify the extent of his authority.

  3. Maintain supervisory control - observe, review and coach

    Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.
    Robert Half
    Delegation is not the abandonment of tasks. As a leader, you are still ultimately responsible therefore time should be set aside to observe and meet with the subordinate for follow-through and review of the delegated areas. This follow-through will give you the opportunity to coach the subordinate in his new assigned tasks. Time spent with your subordinate will also provide you with the information to decide whether to intervene or to allow him to fail and learn from his mistakes.

    Be careful not to take a problem out of a subordinate's hands and make a decision when he merely wants to discuss it with you. Let him take the wheel; do not be a back-seat driver i.e., do not make decisions that your subordinate could otherwise make for himself.
    "The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."
    President Roosevelt
    Continue to guide him by asking questions to clarify his objectives, raise up all key-related facts, think of alternatives and possibilities and finally consider consequences of actions.




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Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © July 2007 by Alan S.L. Wong