Thursday 12 February 2015


Another of those perennial issues which many of my clients find it helpful to discuss and work on is delegation. So here are my summary notes. As always, I am interested in discussion and am open to learning. 

Delegation is giving a member of your staff the responsibility and the authority to carry out part of your role, while retaining accountability.

Note that delegation is giving part of your job away: telling some typists which things to type is not delegation, it is work allocation.

And that is why it can be scary. On the one hand, it is your work, and naturally we all assume that they can never do it to the same standard that we can. However, it is important to delegate for two important reasons. The first is to free you to have the thinking time to do the most strategic parts of your role properly.  The second is to develop and grow staff, which is both enriching for them and important for the organisation.

Note in particular three key words in that definition:

1  Responsibility means that the individual is responsible for deciding how and when to do the tasks (within limits set by yourself: eg a final deadline).

2  Authority means that the individual may use resources, gather information, and take decisions, as though she or he were you, (again within limits set by yourself: eg talk to you before spending more than £X).

3  Accountability means that the buck stops with you. If your member of staff makes a mistake, it is up to you to take the blame! There are two reasons for that: one is that it is part of your job that has gone wrong. The other is that if something goes wrong, you have probably not delegated properly.

Control Mechanisms: Because the buck stops with you, you will need to set some control mechanisms in place: eg limits beyond which the individual cannot go with out checking with you, and agreed times for progress checks.

These should relate to the individual's confidence and competence, and the importance of the task delegated. You want to give the individual as much freedom and room for action as he or she can manage, without taking undue risks.

Once the control mechanisms are established, let the individual get on with the task: don't hover, interrupt, offer unsolicited advice....

Delegation Checklist

What parts of my job or project cannot be delegated?
(Eg because they are confidential, involve disciplinary or other sensitive personnel issues etc.)

What shall I delegate, and to whom?
(Consider developmental needs of staff, tasks which are likely to recur etc)

How shall I brief, train and support them?
1 What context do they need to understand? 
2 What are the desired results? 
3 What are the guidelines? 
4 What resources are available 
5 What training or other support do they need? 
6 How will performance be measured? 
7 What control mechanisms are appropriate? 
8 When will progress reports be given? 
9 What are the consequences of accomplishing or not accomplishing the results? 
10 When will we review the work (and learning)?
Who else needs to know that I have delegated this task?
(eg other managers with whom the individual will interact on your behalf)

How will I build the trust necessary for effective and empowering delegation?


Be brave!

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