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Delegation - How to Delegate Properly

Delegation - how to delegate properly

How to delegate

Delegation is the art of entrusting the right task, to the right person, in the right way.

Each element of the above definition is important:

  1. The right task - don't be careless about WHAT you delegate.
  2. The right person - don't be careless about TO WHOM you delegate.
  3. The right way - don't be careless about the METHOD with which you delegate.

Let us examine each of these in turn.

What should you delegate?

What you delegate depends on your reasons for delegating.
There are many good reasons to delegate a task

There are four good reasons for delegating:

First good reason to delegate - to allow you more time to get on with more valuable work

Some of your work is of the highest value. But the rest of it isn't.
If you can delegate some of your "lower value work" to another person, then that will free you up for your highest value work.
In that case, delegate your lower value tasks; those tasks that cannot be ignored but don't have to be done by you personally.

Second good reason to delegate - To delegate the task to a person who is best able to perform it

Presumably, you are not the best performer at every task to be done. There are tasks that can be better done by others in the team. If that is true; then give the task to the person who possesses the most talent at that category of work.
In this case, delegate the task that corresponds to the person's particular skill.

Third good reason to delegate - to develop the skills of the team

There is also a case to be made for delegating a task to a person who does NOT have the skills, but does have the native ability. I.e. you can delegate a certain task to a team member in order to develop their skills.
In this case, delegate the tasks that are only slightly above the person's current ability and give them the necessary support and guidance.

Fourth good reason to delegate- to "balance the load"

Some people have too much to do; and others don't have enough.
So it makes sense to redistribute the work so as to balance to load; much like the ship's captain would evenly distribute the ballast load, to keep the ship on an even keel.

The same principle applies here.

If this is the case, then take items from "busy person A" and delegate them to "non busy person B".
If possible, AVOID distributing "already started jobs" to B.

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Because the handover of the job from A to B , will always contain errors, omissions and misunderstandings; so mistakes are made. Consequently overall efficiency is lost rather than gained.

Delegate to the right person - don't be careless about TO WHOM you delegate

The right person is that person with the following attributes:
The right person is the one with the appropriate skills and knowledge.

If you are entrusting a task to another, then you need to entrust the task to the person who is capable of achieving the task successfully.

The right person is the one who is not operating under "limiting constraints"

Everyone is working under limiting constraints; constraints being defined as "facts that you can't change"

Everyone lives within a set of constraints; facts they can't change. So the person to whom you wish to delegate a task, may have the skills and knowledge, but they may be operating under constraints that would prevent them from succeeding at the delegated task.


The task may require that they work beyond their contracted hours, but they are constrained by the fact that they must be home by 6.30pm in order to be home for the children.

So, take into account the possible limiting constraints that are operating on the person being delegated the task.

The right person is the one who has the right attitude.

There are some people with a good attitude and are keen to learn.
Others have a poor attitude and are keen to do absolutely no more than that for which they are paid. And not one step beyond!
Look out for those people who are keen to learn and "go the extra mile".
These people are the ones who will be the future leaders of your company (or the leaders of your competitors companies!).
Give them the delegated task and keep your eye on the guy who won't "go the extra mile".

Tip: Find out if he is even going the first mile.

You may find that this person is trying to be paid for doing nothing. (There is a personality type that believes that the purpose of life is to try to "get something for nothing". They call it "beating the system". Do you have any of this type in your organisation? If yes, be very wary!)

The right way - the METHOD of delegation

You probably already know the model for delegation; it is called S.M.A.R.T.

Each letter stands for a characteristic, thus:

S = Specific

Make your description of the delegated task as specific and clear as you can.
Describe tasks numerically. Give exact definitions and full explanations. Ensure that the person understands precisely what the task is.

M = Measured

You must agree a method for checking and measuring the progress, or lack of progress, of the given task.
You must agree the "feedback mechanism". How often should you check in on the person doing the task to ensure that that task is being done correctly?

  1. Too much checking will cause the person to feel he is not trusted.
  2. Too little checking will cause the person to be in a "sink or swim situation".
  3. The right amount of checking will lead to the job being done properly.

This needs to be fully discussed and agreed by the person delegating and the recipient.

A = Achievable

This means the person possesses the right skills, knowledge and experience. See the notes above.

R = Realistic

Realistic means that the person has the right attitude and has no constraints operating on them that would make the task impossible. See the notes above.

T = Time Deadline

Time deadline means that the deadline for the completion of the task is agreed to be reasonable; Reasonable means: the deadline takes into account all the relevant, known factors and is do-able.

Here is the point

As much as is possible for you... Delegate as many of the right tasks - to the right people - in the right way using SMART

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measured
  • A - Achievable
  • R - Realistic
  • T - Time deadline

For more information about delegation and time management training visit the Corporate Coach Group website.

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