Delegation can be one of the most critical skills of effective management. Delegation is the downward transfer of formal authority from supervisor to subordinate. The employee is empowered to act for the supervisor, while the supervisor remains accountable for the outcome. Delegation of authority is a person-to-person relationship requiring trust, commitment, and contracting between the supervisor and the employee. Good delegation skills saves the supervisor time and energy to perform at a higher level, maintains and builds others’ esteem and skills, and gets more work done in less time. On the other hand, supervisors do not delegate because of the attitude that no one would get the job done like they could, inexperience and lack of practice or training on how to delegate, the fear of making mistakes, and the impatience of not taking the time to explain and teach others how to perform the task. Poor delegation will create frustration and confusion and hinder others from achieving the task or purpose.
Effective delegation is an important tool that supervisors fail or hesitate to use. Delegating can be a major challenge for new supervisors to learn because they are concerned about giving up control and struggle with having confidence in the abilities of others to get the job done. Too often managers delegate the wrong activities or have no interest in what they delegate. Therefore, they lose control over the process or function that they are held accountable for completing. Delegated tasks should be specific, measurable, realistic and ethical, time bound, and monitored and recorded.
The first step in delegating is to identify what should and should not be delegated. Establish objectives and specify the task that needs to be accomplished. Specific goals lead to higher performance. The second step in delegating is to clarify the results you want and who will be best suited for the task. Choose the right person. Not everyone can perform the same job. When deciding whom to choose for the task take into consideration what skills and knowledge are needed to complete the task, what outcome is expected, what resources are needed and who best matches that description? Determine the resources that are necessary for the employee to complete the task. Let the employee devise their own plan of action when constructing how they will go about completing the task.
The next step in the delegating process is setting realistic objectives and goals and time frame for getting everything done. Sit down and set goals together. Define expectations what authority the employee has, the allotted budget and time restraints. Do not tell them exactly how to do the task, instead briefly explain what you want and let them tell you how they will handle the situation. There are many ways to achieve a common objective. Do not insist that they go about something your way. You never know, they may find a quicker more effective approach to tackling a task than you would. Never assume that your way is the only way and right way. Make clear the budget available and budgetary limitations that are to be used for the project. Also establish a time limit. Time can mean different things to different people. If you want the task completed by Thursday make it clear that when you say by Thursday that means Wednesday night at midnight. By Thursday to some people may mean they have until Thursday evening to complete the assignment. Be specific when delegating a time limit and goals that need to be achieved.
The last step in the delegating process is establishing a follow-up-schedule. Using a series of follow-up meetings monitors the progress on the assignment and determines the need for assistance if need be. Monitoring the progress along the way eliminates the discovery two days before the due date that the task is not on schedule. It can also serve as an indication early on during the task if the employee needs assistance or not. Many times employees hesitate to ask questions because they fear that the supervisor will interpret this as a sign of weakness or the inability to complete the job. Follow-up meetings give them the opportunity to ask questions within the context of the meeting designed for that specific purpose. Regular feedback reduces the margin of error, and develops a system so that small problems are detected before they become bigger problems.
Delegating is also closely linked to the four functions of management. To delegate effectively you must have a plan of action where goals and objectives are determined. The supervisor also organizes the