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Lessons in Leadership

Mastering the Delegation Process

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Delegation means achieving results by giving someone else the authority to do work for which you are ultimately responsible. Despite the fact that delegation has many benefits, the process also has some potential pitfalls, so you need to use a delegation process that will minimize the risks and maximize the rewards.

Consider these questions when deciding whether to delegate a task or project . . .

  • Do I really have to do this myself?

  • Who else has the ability to do this?

  • Who might benefit from learning to do this?

  • What is the worst thing that may happen if I delegate this?

  • How can I prevent that from happening?

  • Who has the biggest stake in the outcome?

  • Who really "owns" this problem?


Seven Steps to Effective Delegation

Delegation can be risky and nerve-wracking if done badly, because you may find that you don't get the expected results. However, by following the steps outlined below, you can usually insure that you will achieve desired results and both you and the employee will be satisfied with the process.

  1. Define your desired results.
  2. Select an appropriate employee.
  3. Determine the "level" of delegation.
  4. Clarify expectations and set parameters.
  5. Give authority to match level of responsibility.
  6. Provide background information.
  7. Arrange for feedback during the process.

The "level of delegation" referred to in Step 3 relates to the amount of decision-making authority the person will have. Here are five options to consider for level of delegation:

Level 1:  Gather information about the pros and cons of different options.
Level 2:  Give me several possible alternative actions and recommend one.
Level 3:  Recommend the action you think should be taken. Wait for my approval.
Level 4:  Take action, but report back to me when you do.
Level 5:  Take action independently. No need to report back.

Characteristics of Effective Delegators

Effective delegation requires not only a structured process, as described above, but also the proper attitude on the part of the manager. Some characteristics of an effective delegator are described below.
  • Develops trusting relationships with employees.

  • Is able to let go of detail work.

  • Can let others make decisions.

  • Focuses on desired results, not methods.

  • Is open to new ideas and approaches.

  • Helps people learn from their mistakes.

  • Feels rewarded by the success of others.


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