Delegation for Growth and Development

Adapted from モAMA Business Boot Campヤ edited by Edward T. Reilly, CEO of the American Management Association (AMA).

Edited by Edward T. Reilly

Delegation allows another individual or group to work on a project or task that offers motivation and rewards on its successful completion. It also offers the manager the opportunity to grow and develop individuals who then can be recognized as high-level contributors in the organization. Begin your close look into the practice of delegating with a self-assessment of your comfort level with delegation.

Two-Way Benefits of Delegating

Managers can and should delegate to employees who have the necessary skills and enthusiasm to take on an additional project or task and who see it as an opportunity. Coaching employees to improve their skill and knowledge levels can be accomplished through effective delegation.

Managers who delegate effectively have direct reports who are more capable and enthusiastic because of their delegation experience. They are seen as competent and committed to taking on more projects or tasks, thereby freeing up the manager’s time to work on tasks that cannot be delegated.

Managers who either do not delegate or do so halfheartedly or haphazardly run a high risk of having a demoralized and demotivated workforce who will not improve their skill or knowledge levels. Keep in mind that accomplishing work through others is the manager’s primary job; therefore, delegation is a key performance management tool.

Until you involve others, you probably will struggle with your role as a manager. You will feel like you have more tasks than time to do them. You may feel overwhelmed by the workload and responsibilities. You may even hate coming into work because facing the day is so difficult.

Regardless of the strong personal reasons to share the workload with your competent and committed employees, there are also many business reasons to learn to delegate. Among them:

  • More work can be accomplished.
  • Direct reports become more involved.
  • Remote locations can be more effectively managed.
  • Development of direct reports occurs as part of the process.
  • It is cost-effective for the company.

In spite of these compelling arguments to delegate, a surprising number of new managers avoid it. They fear that delegating will put the glory of the accomplishment on someone other than them, or worry that they are the only ones who really know how to do the job, so it would be “wrong” to hand it over to another person. Corollary reasons are that they don’t have faith in their employees’ abilities or simply don’t have the patience to describe the task requirements to other people and figure it’s easier to do it themselves. Another common reason is simple lack of experience in delegating. They just do not know how to get started.

5 Steps to Delegation Success

The following steps may help you overcome any resistance you have to delegation because the process itself is foreign.

  1. Analyze the task.
  2. Select a delegatee.
  3. Assign the task.
  4. Execute the task.
  5. Conduct regularly scheduled feedback sessions.

When to Delegate—and When Not To

Just because you know the process of delegating does not mean you should jump into it. Differentiating between tasks that can and should be delegated and tasks that require personal handling is just as important as knowing how to delegate. Consider the contrasts between examples of work that can effectively be given to others and work that needs to remain on your turf:

Assignments That Probably Can Be Delegated

  • Tasks closely related to the work employees already are doing.
  • Tasks with clearly defined procedures and end results.
  • Repetitive tasks that fit into the normal workflow.
  • Tasks that enable employees to develop themselves.

Any one of these examples could turn into a task that probably should not be delegated, however, if the time frame for completion puts extreme pressure on the individual. Some personality types thrive under that kind of pressure. Many others do not. As a manager, you need to pay attention to how your direct reports respond to the tasks you delegate.

Circumstances When Delegation May Be Inappropriate

  • Tasks are of a highly sensitive nature (e.g., salary reviews, disciplinary actions).
  • Tasks are not clearly defined or some uncertainty about a task exists.
  • When tasks involve decision-making, higher-up management expects the manager to handle them.
  • Resources are severely limited, whether they are human resources, equipment, or funding.

A task that managers commonly delegate, which may or may not be appropriate to have a surrogate handle, is the “thanks for a job well done.” You always should take the time to express gratitude yourself to the individual or the group of people who performed well. However, when the expression of gratitude comes in the form of a party, for example, delegating is a reasonable option.

Adapted fromAMA Business Boot Camp” edited by Ed Reilly, CEO of the American Management Association (AMA).

Edward T. Reillyis the 17th president and CEO of the American Management Association International (AMA). Prior to joining AMA in 2001, he was president and CEO of Big Flower Holdings, Inc., a provider of integrated marketing and advertising services. He also served as president of The McGraw-Hill Broadcasting Company, among various executive positions during his more than 25 years with The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.