Delegation as a tool for growth

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Some managers perceive being too busy as a sign of success or a prosperous career. This can be true, but being constantly overworked and overwhelmed has more negative than positive effects. Sometimes the workload is simply too much and the manager needs help to get everything done on time.

After three years studying how managers can become more productive, Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen provided an answer to the question  “What if you could free up as much as 20% of your workday to focus on the responsibilities that really matter?”

The answer is simple, “eliminate or delegate unimportant tasks and replace them with value-added ones.”

What is Delegation?

The basic definition of delegating is: “assigning duties to another person or persons while still being held accountable.” The person who delegates remains accountable for the overall performance and also for the performance of his or her team members.

Not everything can be delegated. There are some tasks and projects that require the managers skills and experience, like feedback or tough decisions, but there are tasks that others can handle.

Why don’t we delegate?

The delegation process needs a lot of effort, and the first step is to recognize the common barriers to delegation. Both the managers and the team members are often reluctant to make the mindset change required to overcome these obstacles.

Some of the most common barriers for managers to delegate are:

  • I can do it better myself,
  • My people are not capable enough,
  • I don’t have enough time to explain what I want done,
  • I can lose power and control of the situation,
  • I can lose prestige or status,
  • I like to do this myself,
  • I wouldn’t know where to start (lack of technical know-how of how to delegate).

There are concerns from the team members too:

  • I don’t have enough time,
  • I don’t have enough experience,
  • I will fail to accomplish the task,
  • I don’t want this responsibility,
  • I’m concerned about the reaction of the other team members,
  • I don’t have a cordial relationship with my manager (lack of positive incentives).

It is also important to verify that lack of resources and unclear hierarchies in the organization don’t become additional barriers to delegation.

What are the keys to successful delegation?

Successful delegation requires planning, communication, monitoring and rewarding. A plan has to be created for evaluating the repetitive tasks and determining the level of experience required to complete the work.

Then the information has to be given to the employee. It is vital to set clear and objective goals, including timing and expectations for communication and updates. Doing so, the manager can avoid miscommunication or a failed execution of the task.

It can be asked that the employee give feedback to make sure the assignment has been accepted and the instructions have been understood. The delegate must also be aware of any consequences that may result if she or he fails to deliver the outcomes.

The manager must give the authority to take control of the whole task and the employee must be encouraged, supported and empowered to make decisions that affect her or his job. It increases the commitment to the completion of the work. However, in order to ensure progress and success, the delegated assignment has to be tracked and the key for effective follow-up is not to wait until the last minute.

When delegated work is delivered back, the manager must set aside enough time to review it thoroughly. Only good quality, fully-complete work should be accepted.

The delegator’s feedback should include both praise for positive results and suggestions for improvement on future projects. This demonstrates to the team member that he or she is paying attention to the work and values the contributions.

And when good work is returned, the effort should be recognized and rewarded. This builds the team member’s self-confidence and efficiency, which will be mirrored in his or her next delegated task.

It takes time…

Effective delegation is a skill that can be improved through time, effort, and practice. It brings into play many management functions such as planning, organizing, coordinating, motivating, communicating and leading. On the other side, the employees have the opportunity to develop themselves and grow through learning new skills and achieving their goals. They become better and more productive.

Delegation must be used to balance workloads and provide staff development opportunities and a good delegation creates a positive, motivating environment.

Sources :

How to Delegate Effectively: An Essential Process for Small … – Paychex
Five Common Human Barriers to Effective Delegation
6 Steps For More Effective Delegation | Fast Company

Photo credit : gustavofrazao via

Anna-Maria Guerrieri Anna-Maria Guerrieri

Throughout my career in administration, two elements have been key for me. Learning and understanding. It's important for me to understand the consequences of my work. Why? So I can make the most complex procedures accessible to all the members of my multinational teams. I make numbers talk so everyone understands the statistics we are working with. In short, my empathy, analytical skills and focus on precision allows us all to perform for the good of the team and the company.

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