Managers get things done through other people. Because there are limits to any manager’s time and knowledge, effective managers need to understand how to delegate. Delegation is the assignment of authority to another person to carry out specific duties. It allows an employee to make decisions. Delegation should not be confused with participation. In participative decision making, there’s a sharing of authority. In delegation, employees make decision by themselves.
A number of actions differentiate the effective delegator from the ineffective delegator. There are five behaviors that effective delegators will use.
- Clarify the assignment
Determine what is to be delegated and to whom. You need to identify the person who’s most capable of doing the task and then determine whether or not s/he has the time and motivation to do the task. If you have a willing and able employee, it’s your responsibility to provide clear information on what is being delegated, the results you expect, and any time or performance expectations you may have. Unless there’s an overriding need to adhere to specific methods, you should delegate only the results expected, but let the employee decide the best way to complete the task.
- Specify the employee’s range of discretion
Every situation of delegation comes with constraints. Although you’re delegating to an employee the authority to perform some task or tasks, you’re not delegating unlimited authority. You are delegating authority to act on certain issues within certain parameters. You need to specify what those parameters are so that employees know, without any doubt, the range of discretion.
- Allow the employee to participate
One of the best ways to decide how much authority will be necessary to accomplish a task is to allow the employee who will be held accountable for that task to participate in that decision. Be aware, however, that allowing employees to participate can present its own set of potential problems as a result of employees’ self-interests and biases in evaluating their own abilities.
- Inform others that delegation has occurred
Delegation shouldn’t take place behind the scenes. Not only do the manager and employee need to know specifically what has been delegated and how much authority has been given, but so does anyone else who’s likely to be affected by the employee’s decisions and actions. This includes people inside and outside the organization. Essentially, you need to communicate what has been delegated (the task and amount of authority) and to whom.
- Establish feedback channels
To delegate without establishing feedback controls is inviting problems. The establishment of controls to monitor the employee’s performance increases the likelihood that important problems will be identified and that the task will be completed on time and to the desired specifications. Ideally, these controls should be determined at the time of the initial assignment. Agree on a specific time for the completion of the task and then set progress dates when the employee will report back on how well he or she is doing and any major problems that may have arisen. These controls can be supplemented with periodic checks to ensure that authority guidelines aren’t being abused, organizational policies are being followed, proper procedures are being met, and the like.