Team Leadership Toolkit

Leadership Skills

Effective delegation

The secret of success is not in doing your own work, but in recognising the right person to do it.

What Delegation is and is not!

Delegation is the assignment of authority to another person to carry out the specific job-related activities. It allows a subordinate to make decisions; that is, it is a shift of decision-making authority from one organisational level to another lower one.

Delegation is not participation.

In participative decision making, there is a sharing of authority; with delegation, subordinates make decisions on their own.
Effective delegation pushes authority down vertically through the ranks of an organisation

Delegation is not task assignment.

Task assignment is simply assigning work to an individual within the duties and responsibilities of his position.
Delegation, on the other hand, involves the manager giving someone the responsibility and authority to do something that is normally part of the manager’s job.

Delegation is not “dumping.”

Managers should take special care to make sure that the employee does not think he is trying to “dump” unpleasant assignments on him.
If delegation is not done properly, employees feel put upon and resent what they perceive as "I’ve to follow the boss’s order".

Delegation is not abdication.

The manager still has the ultimate accountability for the assignment. That’s why it is important for you to establish appropriate controls and checkpoints to monitor progress.
Besides, managers should give delegatees the appropriate authority to act along with clear expectations including any boundaries or criteria. The manager, however, should try to avoid prescribing HOW the assignment should be completed.


Delegation involves three important concepts and practices: responsibility, authority, and accountability. When you delegate, you share responsibility and authority with others and you hold them accountable for their performance. The ultimate accountability, however, still lies with the manager who should clearly understand that :

Delegation must be accompanied by effective coaching. Delegation will not be effective unless managers and other designated supervisors and coaches work with employees to help them develop the skills needed to get the job done. To be effective, delegation also requires good communication and a high degree of trust.

Potential Benefits

Delegation helps you by freeing you up to focus on the matters that really do require your attention (this is where it’s important for good time and stress management). And it helps you develop your people by freeing them up to use their abilities to the greatest extent (this is where it’s important for effective leadership).

To the Manager
To the Employee
  • Makes your job easier and more exciting
  • Reduces stress.
  • Frees you to do what you should be doing
  • Develops trust and rapport with your employees
  • Grooms potential successors
  • Promotes teamwork
  • Brings about professionalism
  • Increases productivity
  • Provides professional growth opportunities
  • Develops their professional knowledge and skills
  • Elevates their self-image and ultimately self-esteem
  • Enhances their confidence and value to the organization
  • Brings them personal satisfaction and a sense of achievement
  • Gives them opportunities to be involved with decision making
  • Leads to more commitment and increased morale


1.    Preparation

Prior to delegating, you need to think some important things through. Below is a checklist of some key points. In thoroughly considering these key points prior to delegating, you will find that you will delegate more successfully.

  1. The specifics of the task or job to be delegated. 
  2. The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual as they apply to the delegated task. 
  3. How this person works best (including what he or she wants from his or her job, how he or she views the work, and so on.) 
  4. The current workload of this person. 
  5. The project’s timelines/deadlines, including:
    • How much time is there available to do the job?
    • Is there time to redo the job if it’s not done properly the first time?
    • What are the consequences of not completing the job on time? 
  6. Resources for this person as he/she works to complete the task. 
  7. Your expectations or goals for the project or task(s), including:
    • How important is it that the results are of the highest possible quality?
    • Is an “adequate” result good enough?
    • Would a failure be crucial?
    • How much would failure impact other things? 
  8. Your role - the role you play as the person who is delegating in ensuring the project’s success, through ongoing monitoring, support, coaching, the providing of resources, and so on. 
  9. Appropriate mechanisms for controlling the project:
    For example, precisely when should you set checkpoints and report-backs to make sure that things are going smoothly?


2.    Keeping Effective Control

Now, once you have worked through the above steps, make sure you brief your team member appropriately. Take time to explain why they were chosen for the job, what’s expected from them during the project, the goals you have for the project, all timelines and deadlines and the resources on which they can draw. And agree a schedule for checking-in with progress updates.

Lastly, make sure that the team member knows that you want to know if any problems occur, and that you are available for any questions or guidance needed as the work progresses.

We all know that as managers, we shouldn’t micro-manage. However, this doesn’t mean we must abdicate control altogether: In delegating effectively, we have to find the sometimes-difficult balance between giving enough space for people to use their abilities to best effect, while still monitoring and supporting closely enough to ensure that the job is done correctly and effectively.

Providing that you stick to the checkpoints agreed, you should find out early on, for example, if tasks you are delegating to Team Member A would be better delegated to Team Member B. Alternatively, you may find that the deadlines set for the delegated project are not realistic: This means you have plenty of time either to accelerate the project (for example by allocating more effort to it) or to manage the expectations of the customer of the project to expect a later delivery.

3.    Final Review

When delegated work is delivered back to you, set aside enough time to review it thoroughly.

If possible, only accept good quality, fully-complete work. If you accept work you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Worse than this, you accept a whole new tranche of work that you will probably need to complete yourself. Not only does this overload you, it means that you don’t have the time to do your own job properly.

Of course, when good work is returned to you, make sure to both recognize and reward the effort. As a leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building team member’s self-confidence and efficiency, both of which will be improved on the next delegated task; hence, you both win.

As a word of caution: When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient, for if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.