Delegation is the cornerstone of effective leadership. However, few people know how to delegate. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to delegate effectively:
Step One: Get clarity! What does success look like? What roles or tasks are you delegating? Define the desired result. Make the goal 100% clear.
Step Two: Get commitment from the person accepting the new tasks or role. If he is not 100% committed to assuming the additional task, delegation is doomed to failure.
Step Three: Define an action plan to accomplish the delegated task or role. (Managers must be ready to accept ideas, or new ways of accomplishing the task. This is where the person doing the delegated task can propose changes in the process for improved efficiency.)
Step Four: Dedicate necessary resources (human, financial, technical) so the person doing the task, or role, has the requisite tools to succeed. Moreover, the Manager (who is delegating the task) will commit to helping out if the person doing the delegated task needs more support. This is a safety net.
Step Five: Check results at a specific future time. If the work is well done, the delegation is complete. However if the job is inadequate, the Manager must give his colleague more training, and other resources, ensuring success going forward. This is key. Shortcomings are learning experiences.
Delegation is simple, but not easy. British comedian and management consultant, John Cleese, summarized delegation: “Take your hands off but keep your eyes on.”
Why is delegation so important?
Ideally, delegation is a ‘win-win’ arrangement: On one hand, the leader transfers roles and tasks to his colleagues. That’s how he, or she, gains time for strategic initiatives (such as developing opportunities, or mentoring). On the other hand, people assuming new roles are empowered with greater meaning and purpose. Great leaders boost performance through delegation.
How does delegation fail?
Failure comes in two flavors; namely: (1) Leaders fail to clarify the five steps, or (2) Leaders delegate tasks, but then hang around and micro manage their subordinates.
In short, you need to do your homework, clarifying each of the five steps. But then you let go. This is like a recipe for Irish Stew: You only need five ingredients, but you cannot skip anything; otherwise the stew is ruined. There are no shortcuts.
Delegation is how great leaders boost their influence, whilst empowering others. Just follow the five steps to succeed.
Covey, S. R. (1990). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY: Simon Schuster Ltd.
Goleman, D., R. Boyatzis, & A. McKee (2013). Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press
Juran, J.M. (1964). Managerial Breakthrough – a concept of the manager’s job and a systematic approach to improving management performance. New York, NY: McGraw Hill
Yukl, G., (2013). Leadership in Organizations. Harlow, U.K: Pearson
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