A key aspect of leadership is ‘Delegation‘. Unless you delegate tasks to your subordinates, your team will become inefficient and demoralized. Managers and team leaders must possess skills such as psychologically understanding their team mates or subordinates, as well as their capabilities, skills, competencies, etc. This is why delegation is more of an art than a science.
Delegation is never throwing tasks on others to complete, but it is all about how to distribute formal authority throughout the organizational structure which is a key organizing decision. Delegation is the assignment to another person of formal authority (legitimate power) and accountability for carrying out specific activities. The delegation of authority by managers to employees is necessary for the efficient functioning of any organization, because no manager can personally accomplish or completely supervise all of what happens at the organization or even the department he/she manages.
Delegation.. WHY and HOW?
When used properly, delegation has several important advantages. The first and most obvious is that the more tasks managers are able to delegate, the more opportunities they have to seek and accept increased responsibilities from higher level managers. Thus managers will try to delegate not only routine matters but also tasks requiring thought and initiative, so that they will be able to direct their focus on business development and growth. On the other hand, delegation results in developing employees to accept accountability and exercise judgment and decision making. More importantly, proper delegation allows employees to improve their self confidence, willingness to take initiative, and gradually shifts them to objective orientated approaches rather than task focused.
Researches proved that decision making skills have been largely improved through delegation as employees closest to ‘where the action is’ are likely to have a clearer view of the facts. Not only that, but effective delegation also speeds up the decision making process. Valuable time can be lost when employees check with their managers (who then may have to check with their managers) before making a decision. This delay is eliminated when employees are authorized to make the necessary decision on the spot.
Generally, positive aspects of delegation can be summarized in the following 5 key benefits:
- Higher efficiency
- Increased motivation
- Skills development
- Workload distribution
- Effective resource utilization
Unfortunately, many people do mix ‘delegation’ with the simple concept of ‘task distribution’. They mistakenly do believe that delegation is simply giving others tasks to do. Well, although this is part of effective delegation, it is never the whole picture.
For delegation to be effective and rewarding, the following 5-step approach has to be greatly considered:
- Identify a suitable person for the task.
- Prepare the person; explain the task clearly, make sure that you are well understood, leave a room in the task description for ingenuity / initiative.
- Make sure the person has the necessary authority to do the job properly.
- Keep in touch with the person for support and monitoring progress. Do not get too close. Accept alternative approaches.
- Praise and Acknowledge a job well done.
Responsibility vs. Authority:
Even though you have delegated a task to someone, you are still responsible for making sure the task is done on time and correctly. If the task fails, you cannot point the finger. You delegated. It is your fault. You may have picked the wrong person for the job, failed in preparing him/her to do the task, or you missed to grant him the necessary authority to do the delegated task.
Obviously, there is no standard for the amount of authority you delegate to someone. The only measure is to have the given authority enough to complete the task. A task of checking the safe box of the bank, for example, requires giving the person the safe box key and the access to it, otherwise, the job cannot be done.
So, ‘Authority’ is part of the delegation, while ‘Responsibility’ remains yours.