How do you delegate effectively?

Assuming that delegation is in order, how do you delegate? A number of methods have been suggested for differentiating the effective delegator from the ineffective one.

Clarify the assignment: First determine what is to be delegated and to whom. You need to identify the person who is most capable of doing the task and then determine whether he or she has the time and motivation to do the job. Assuming that you have a willing employee, it is your responsibility to provide clear information on what is being delegated, the results you expect and any time or performance expectations you hold. Unless the project entails an overriding need to adhere to specific methods, you should ask an employee only to provide the desired results. That is, get agreement on what is to be done and the results expected, but let the employee decide by which means the work is to be completed. By focusing on goals an allowing the employee the freedom to use his or her own judgment as to how those goals are to be achieved you increase trust between you and the employee, improve the employee’s motivation an enhance accountability for results.

Specify employees’ range of discretion: Every act of delegation comes with constraints. You are delegating authority to act but nit unlimited authority. You are delegating the authority to act on certain issues within certain parameters. You need to specify what those parameters are so that employees know, in no uncertain terms the range of their discretion. When those parameters have been successfully communicated both you and employees will have the same idea of the limits to the latter’s authority and how far they can go without further approval.

Allow employee to participate: One of the best ways to decide how much authority will be necessary is to allow employees who will be held accountable for the tasks to participate in that decision. Be aware however, that participation can present its own set of potential problems as a result of employees’ self interest and biases in evaluating their own abilities. Some employees might be personally motivated to expand their authority beyond what they need and beyond what they are capable of handling. Allowing such people too much participation in deciding what tasks they should take on and how much authority they must have to complete those tasks can undermine the effectiveness of the delegation process.

Inform others that delegation has occurred: Delegation should not take place in a vacuum. Not only do you and your employees need to know specifically what has been delegated and how much authority has been granted; anyone else who is likely to be affected by the delegation act needs to be informed, including people outside the organization as well as inside it. Essentially you need to convey what has been delegated (the task and amount of authority) and to whom. Failure to inform other makes conflict likely and decrease the chances that your employees will be able to accomplish the delegated act efficiently.

Establish feedback controls: To delegate without instituting feedback controls is inviting problems. It is always possible that employees will misuse the discretion they have been given. Controls to monitor employees’ progress increase the likelihood that important problems will be identified early and that the task will be completed on time and to the desired specification. Ideally these controls should be determined at the time of initial assignments. Agree on a specific time for completion of the task, and then set progress dates by which the employees will report on how well they are doing and on any major problems that have surfaced. These controls an be supplemented with periodic spot checks to ensure that authority guidelines are not being abused organization policies are being followed proper procedures are being met, and the like. Too much of good thing can be dysfunctional if the controls are too constraining employees will be deprived of he opportunity to build self confidence. As a result, much of the motivational aspect of delegation may be lost.

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