Effective Delegation in Six (Almost) Easy Steps

Delegation is more than just a way of getting people to do things for you. It is also a powerful leadership and coaching tool.

When used properly, delegation enables you to increase productivity and profitability, improve morale and increase retention. Perhaps most important for overworked and overstressed entrepreneurs, it allows you to enjoy professional success and still have a personal life.

Achieving these results requires effective delegation, which involves six basic steps:delegate

1. Be Prepared
Before delegating, take the time to think through the task and identify whom you will delegate to and the outcome you want..

2. Discuss the task
Engage the employee in a conversation about the task you want to delegate, then have them repeat back to you (in their own words) what they heard. Make sure both of you are in agreement regarding the task being delegated and the outcome you desire.

3. Identify the deadline for completion
This seems obvious, but managers often fail to clearly think through this step. Make sure your deadline is realistic and achievable, particularly when delegating a stretch goal or something the person hasn’t done before. If you think the employee might need some revision time, build it in up front so you don’t end up at the deadline with a different outcome than the one you wanted.

4. Outline the level of authority.

Clearly outline the level of the authority you want the person to have. Then stand back and let them act. Different levels of authority include:

  • Recommend – Ask the person for a recommendation on a course of action, but you make the final decision.
  • Inform and initiate – The person will inform you before they take action.
  • Act – The person has full authority to act on their own.

If your primary goal is to get the job done, choose someone who already fits into the “act” level. To engage in coaching and development, select people in the first two levels.

5. Build in checkpoints or progress reports.
At the beginning of the task or project, schedule a series of checkpoint meetings. Build them in early and close together at first, then taper off as the person begins to master the task. During the checkpoint meetings:

  • Review the work that has been accomplished to date and give feedback on how well it is meeting the criteria established in step two.
  • Identify anything you would like the person to do differently. Ask them to repeat back your requested modifications to ensure they understand.
  • Set the next checkpoint meeting (if you don’t already have a preset schedule).

6. Conduct a final debriefing
The final debriefing consists of a discussion about how the delegated task went.

It allows you to:

  • Reinforce growth that has occurred
  • Outline areas for additional growth
  • Applaud success
  • Document performance problems
  • Provide real coaching

Ask the employee how they think they did on the task or project, provide feedback on how you think they did, and discuss any differences in your assessments. Next, have the person provide feedback on your performance as a delegator, give your own assessment, and discuss any differences. Offer the person suggestions for improvement and listen to any they might have for you.

As CEO, you should delegate about 95 percent of what comes across your desk, so that you focus on the strategic opportunities in front of the company. As an entrepreneur, you should delegate everything but your core competence. Using these steps will give you the tools and the confidence to delegate in a manner that achieves the results you want, while helping to grow your people and enabling you to become a more effective leader.

Michael Shapiro – Dynamic Management Solutions, Inc.


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