3 Steps to Effective delegation

  • Michael Siviter
  • 10 November 2015 00:00

I remember sitting in a workload meeting during my time in industry when the Finance Director stated 'You should spend your time working on tasks that only you can do. Everything else should be delegated'.

I thought then and still think now that in an ideal world, the statement itself makes sense. Why spend time completing tasks that somebody else could perform more cheaply as long as the finished product has not been compromised in terms of quality, accuracy and completeness?

In practice of course, the process may not work and can wind up being more timely and costly than if you had done the work yourself probably leading to ill feeling within the team.

So how can we delegate effectively?


Plan what you want to delegate and who you think is the right person for the job. Ideally this should be done proactively, based on the capabilities and interests of the individuals in your team, rather than simply delegating a task to whoever is available at the time.

Consider beforehand:

  • what you would like to delegate i.e. your desired outcome and
  • whenyou would like it completing by.

Where possible, leave the 'how you would like it completing' until you meet with the individual. A list of prescriptive instructions may work for some, but others prefer more autonomy. I have found on numerous occasions that somebody else may have ideas as to how a process could be completed more efficiently whilst still achieving your desired outcome - try and keep an open mind. That said; where their suggested method of completion has been tried before and didn't work - don't be afraid to state this, as long as you explain why the method they suggested wasn't successful.

Allow sufficient time

People usually fail to delegate effectively because it takes a lot of up-front effort. How many of us have thought 'it's easier and quicker to do it myself'? Delegation should be win-win for all parties but almost always ends up lose-lose when trying to delegate something which needs to be completed urgently. Only delegate tasks where you know there is sufficient time for rework if necessary. Be clear with the individual what their responsibilities are. Often responsibility for tasks will be delegated but accountability for task stays with you.

Encourage the individual to ask questions. I always explain why I am delegating the task and why specifically I have chosen to delegate this particular task to that person.

Trust and support

Once timescales and desired outcomes have been agreed I follow this up with an email for clarity. I always agree checkpoints with individuals beforehand e.g. 'Let's have a 10 minute catch-up first thing on Wednesday morning to see how you are getting on' and ensure that I make note of these checkpoints and initiate communication when the checkpoints are reached. The frequency of checkpoints agreed upfront depends on the nature of the work being delegated and the skills and confidence of the person I am delegating to. I also make it clear from the start that I am available to support them throughout the whole process.

But then I leave them to it.

Once the task has been completed, I plan time to review the work in a timely manner so I am able to provide feedback on how they have done whilst it is still fresh in their mind. I also ask them for feedback as to how they thought the process went. Remember, it's a team effort!

Delegation isn't just about getting the task done. It's about developing and empowering individuals within your team whilst allowing you to focus your time on other key work and projects.

Need to improve your feedback skills?

Mercia can help managers develop their management and leadership skills. Courses can also be tailored to your needs and be delivered in-house. For further information you can contact John Sharkey via e-mail or ring 0116 2581200.

You might also be interested in these articles…