7 Effective Delegation Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Delegation allows leaders to match responsibilities with people who are well-equipped to manage them. Understanding delegation steps may help you improve communication in the office and increase team productivity. In this article, we explore the steps of the delegation process and provide best practices for how to successfully complete each stage.

What is delegation?

Delegation is the practice of assigning one person's tasks to another. Managers, supervisors and other leaders typically delegate tasks to heighten efficiency, handle time management and provide training for staff. Effective delegating can:

  • Make more time available for specialized duties

  • Improve work-life balance by decreasing necessary overtime hours

  • Develop your manager-employee relationships

  • Speed up a company's workflow

  • Boost employee confidence and performance

  • Prepare employees for career advancement

  • Highlight your leadership skills

  • Foster a reputation of professional accountability for you and your team

  • Promote healthy communication standards for your team

Related: Delegation Strategies for the Workplace

Steps in the delegation process

For successful delegation, follow these seven steps:

1. Prepare to delegate

Assess the task you wish to delegate by clearly defining its objectives and expectations. Ask yourself the following questions to specify your goals:

  • What do I need to accomplish?

  • What skills and background does my employee need to accomplish it well?

  • What resources can I provide to supplement what they already know?

  • What tools can they use to maximize efficiency?

  • What do I expect a finished product to look like?

  • What does a successful job look like to the people I'm accountable to?

  • Is this one task, or can I separate it into several jobs?

By answering the questions above, you can develop a solid explanation of your goals, provide an actionable checklist of how to complete them and support your team toward success.

2. Assign the task

Using your goal analysis as a guide to your expectations, determine the best individual or team for the job. The following metrics may help you decide:

  • Skills: Delegate to someone with skills well-suited to the task, as they more likely can work independently, which can boost their confidence and save you time.

  • Interest: Delegate to the most eager individual or team, as people often work more efficiently when they're invested in the task.

  • Time: Delegate according to availability, as employees who have enough time to complete the task are more likely to meet deadlines and may be more willing to accept delegation in the future.

Related: How To Be a Good Manager

3. Confirm understanding

Clearly communicate the task's objectives and expectations to the employee or team that is taking responsibility for the project. To confirm they're ready to begin work, consider repeating the instructions in an actionable fashion.

Here's an example of confirming understanding in practice:

Marie is a manager at a public library. She needs to catalog a large inventory of new books by the end of the day on Friday. She delegates this task to two available employees who have experience with cataloging and who enjoy sorting through new inventory.

Marie lets them know the deadline for the project, then politely repeats the deadline by asking them to write it on their calendars. She provides an estimate for how many hours the project should take and suggests working on it for a minimum of two hours per day. To confirm the timeframe and deadline, she asks what time they plan to work on the project the next day.

Related: Guide To Improving Team Communication in the Workplace

4. Support success with SMART goals

Establish specific, actionable goals to help you track your employee's progress. For both large and small projects you delegate, this provides a clear path toward success. Here's what SMART goals look like during the delegation process:

  • Specific: Precisely define the expectations for success, such as one 30-slide presentation on your company's monthly financial performance intended for the vice president of the company.

  • Measurable: Quantify your employee's progress. Consider setting check-in points, such as completing ten slides to help them manage their time more efficiently and feel successful during the process.

  • Attainable: Ensure your employee has the information, budget, software and time they need to complete the task by the deadline. Predict the resources they might need and remind them you're available to answer questions.

  • Relevant: To maximize efficiency, separate unrelated resources and tasks from the one you delegated.

  • Time-based: Set the task in a clear timeframe with a specific deadline. This can help your employee schedule time to complete the delegated task and manage their time more efficiently.

5. Establish commitment

Schedule a follow-up meeting with your employee or team to confirm their commitment to the task. This can be a great chance to show how the project is important, how it might help them advance their skills and what's exciting about the upcoming work.

Here are a few simple questions you can ask to secure the commitment of your employee:

  • When can you be halfway done with the project? Let's schedule a check-in.

  • What are you looking forward to with this project?

  • Do you think you can achieve these results by the deadline?

  • How do you think this project can benefit you?

These questions can elevate an employee's interest in the project and emphasize professional growth.

6. Ensure accountability

Maintain leadership responsibility by providing sufficient support and ensuring your team has the tools they need to succeed. Here's how to enhance accountability for delegated work:

  • Agree on clear deadlines

  • Promote an atmosphere where people are comfortable asking questions

  • Set benchmarks to improve time management and monitor progress

  • Be honest about the consequences for delivering incomplete work

7. Provide incentive for success

Reward those who do well. By emphasizing development and showing people in training how to improve, you can help foster professional confidence in your team, improve productivity and show employees they're appreciated.

Here's how you can encourage your team toward consistent success with delegated tasks:

  • Provide regular feedback showcasing what employees did well and how they can improve

  • Compare their results with the last delegated task to highlight growth

  • Celebrate successful delivery by giving specific details about what employees did well

Related: 11 Employee Recognition Ideas That Will Make Your Employees Feel Valued

What is reverse delegating?

When employees ask a manager to take back a task they've delegated, it's sometimes called reverse delegating. It's helpful to approach reverse delegation with a growth mindset and treat it as an opportunity for project-based training. Here's how to reframe a delegated task to avoid reverse delegation:

  • Refresh: Rephrase the definition of the project and confirm understanding using straightforward language.

  • Reassign: Provide the employee with a partner or two with skills that meet the project requirements. By adding support, the team can finish the project according to parameters while the first employee gains experience they need to take on a similar task in the future.

  • Revise: If possible, give the employee slightly more time to complete the delegated task and give them productivity tips for future projects.

  • Reward: When they finish the project, consider publicly commending employees for their extra effort and highlight how they've grown.

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