Skills required in delegating authority

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 can take their own decisions for execution of any specific work entrusted to them.

A number of actions differentiate the manager who can delegate effectively from the ineffective manager who do not or cannot delegate work. There are five behaviors that effective managers use for delegation.

Clarify the assignment: The place to begin is to determine what is to be delegated and to whom. A manager needs to identify the person who’s most capable of doing the task and then determine whether he or she has the time and motivation to do the task. Assuming there is a willing and able individual, it’s the manager’s responsibility to provide clear information on what is being delegated, the results expected and time or performance expectations he may have. Unless there’s an overriding need to adhere to specific methods, one should delegate only the results expected. Get agreement on what is to be done and the results expected, but let the employee decide the best way to complete the task.

Specify the employee’s range of discretion: Every act of delegation comes with constraints. Although delegating to an employee the authority to perform some task or tasks, a manager is not delegating unlimited authority. A superior or manager is delegating authority to act on certain issues within certain parameters. There is a need to specify what those parameters are, so that the employee knows in no uncertain terms the range of his or her discretion.

Allow the employee to participate: One of the best sources for determining how much authority will be necessary to accomplish a task is the person who will be held accountable for that task. If you allow employees to participate in determining what is delegated, how much authority is needed to get the job done, and the standards by which they’ll be judged, you increase employee motivation, satisfaction, and accountability for performance.

Inform others that delegation has occurred: Delegation should not take place in a vacuum. Not only the boss and the delegate need to know specifically what has been delegated and how much authority has been given, but anyone else who may be affected by the delegation act also needs to be informed.

Establish feedback channels: The establishment of controls to monitor the employee’s progress increases the likelihood that important problems that will be identified early 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 checks to ensure that the authorities guidelines aren’t being abused, organizational policies are being followed, proper procedures are being met, and the like.