Sharing or transferring responsibilities or authority from a superior to a subordinate

What is Delegating?

In management, delegating refers to sharing or transferring responsibilities, and typically happens from a superior (or an employer) to a subordinate (or an employee). Delegating is a critical skill for supervisors at any level and can be a major challenge for them to learn, due to concerns of giving up control or the lack of confidence in the abilities of others. Delegating is an important trait for those who work in teams, and trust plays a critical role in its success.

Delegating - Image of a notebook cover with the word delegating

The Importance of Delegating

Delegation plays an important role in:

1. Efficiency

By delegating work to others, the individual is transferring work to people whose skills better fit the task(s). For example, it would not make efficient sense to have the CEO do administrative work; it is better done by others. Therefore, it improves the efficiency of the individual delegating the work and lessens their stress.

2. Development

In a case where the delegation of work is to someone who is not well versed in doing the task, delegating can play a major role in coaching and teaching others. It is one important way to help them build new skills.

Benefits of Delegating

Delegation of tasks to others offers the following benefits:

  • Gives you the time and ability to focus on higher-level tasks
  • Gives others the ability to learn and develop new skills
  • Develops trust between workers and improves communication
  • Improves efficiency, productivity, and time management

Guidelines for Delegating Tasks

Although delegating tasks boosts efficiency and productivity, and improves time management, it is important to delegate tasks correctly. Here are some things to keep top-of-mind:

  1. Ensure that the objectives are clear and that the person taking on the additional responsibility has the tools to do it well.
  2. Ask for any concerns and be open to suggestions and ideas.
  3. Provide a guideline on the amount of time and/or money to be spent on the delegated task.
  4. Play to the individual’s strength – each person has a unique skill-set and talent. Delegate work that is likely result in better overall efficiency.
  5. For long-term delegated tasks, follow up to keep your workers on the right track.

The Difficulty in Delegating Work

Although there are clear benefits to delegating work, many choose not to do so. In fact, many people feel that it is more efficient for them to just do everything by themselves. There are several reasons as to why an individual may not want to delegate work to others:

1. Delegating does not eliminate accountability

Although you give up the responsibility when you delegate a task, the delegator is ultimately accountable for the success or failure of the task. However, transferring the success to the person who did more of the work is a good strategy for supportive leadership.

2. Delegating results in a loss of control

Many people believe that they can do the job more effectively than others. The sense of loss of control of the task prevents many from passing off work to others.

3. Delegating requires mentorship and time

Delegating requires training on how to do the task. The delegation of work to someone else requires the manager to mentor and ensure that the person completes the task. The delegator may need to spend as much time teaching the other individual how to do the task as to complete the task himself.

Delegating is important in any organization. In fact, in a 2013 Stanford University-led survey, 35% of executives indicated that delegation is something that they need to improve on, while 37% said that they are actively trying to improve their delegation skills.

Examples of Delegating

Empowering your employees

Atlantic Properties is a real estate company that has recently hired two new interns, Carl and Dave. The manager has recently been swamped with investment opportunities and has not had the time to do other tasks such as writing proposals and talking with key stakeholders.

Before joining Atlantic Properties, Carl was a content writer and Dave worked at a call center. The manager decides to play to each intern’s strengths and delegates writing proposals to Carl and talking with key stakeholders to Dave. The manager on-boards both interns on how to successfully do the task and gives a detailed guide on how to perform them. Additionally, the manager checks with each intern periodically to make sure that they are doing things correctly.

Hiring a helping hand

Carmen recently started a new company in Vancouver that is involved in flipping houses. The company’s business model revolves around owning a house for a short period of time and selling it back on the market with the intention of generating a quick profit.

Carmen is the sole founder of the company and she’s been doing everything by herself — marketing, accounting, business strategies, etc. In fact, she’s been overloaded with work to the point where she cannot focus on what she does best — finding bargains in the housing market to flip. To relieve the stress and improve her efficiency, she decides to hire a junior accountant and a marketing manager to delegate work to. By doing so, Carmen is able to focus on what she does best — improve efficiency and reduce stress.

Additional Resources

Management Theories

Leadership Traits

Management Skills

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