OpX Insights

Techniques for Effective Delegation

written By Mike Leigh


In last month’s article, I described how effective delegation can help boost organizational performance.  Not only does delegation help leaders become more productive, it also develops employees and increases their engagement.  But effective delegation is not simply giving an employee an unpleasant task.  It requires thoughtful planning and training.  It also requires an environment conducive to empowered delegation.

Attitude and Culture

Organizational attitudes and culture can sometimes prevent effective delegation.  If a leader fears being replaced by a subordinate employee, or a senior manager expects everyone on his or her leadership team to know every small detail of every process, then delegation can be difficult.  To help create a more positive attitude and culture towards delegation, try these actions:

  • Think and talk in terms of “we” instead of “me.”
  • Replace the word “failure” with other words such as “mistake” or “ learning experience”.
  • Rotate leadership responsibilities for meetings and projects.
  • Develop team trust using frequent and transparent communications.
  • Encourage resourcefulness and creativity.  Judge results rather than methods.
  • Develop the self-confidence to delegate without fear or worry of being replaced or unneeded.

Planning and Training

Delegation is not simply transferring the responsibility for performing a task to someone else on the team.  A leader must also transfer the authority, resources, rewards, and knowledge necessary to perform it.  Once you’ve identified a task to delegate, and a team member to delegate to, consider the following:

Level of Delegation – Depending on the difficulty of the task and the experience of the team member, you must determine the amount of training and freedom to provide.  At the lowest delegation level, you will need to provide very specific direction on how to do a task, and only allow action when directed.  At the highest delegation level, you will be able to fully empower your team member with the responsibility of the task, and only require routine reports.  As you move from the lowest to the highest delegation level, less training and coaching are required, and more authority can be given.

Careful Introduction – Effective delegation always requires adequate communication.  Before turning over responsibility, have a conversation with the team member about your plan.  You might say, “I’m considering handing-off these responsibilities to someone on our team, perhaps even you, to help us reach our long-term goals.  How would you feel about that?”  In this non-threatening manner, it allows your team member to express concerns or enthusiasm about the idea, and you will receive their insight and ideas on how to do it.

Action Plan – How do you plan to delegate the task?  Without a plan of action that provides time for training and coaching, the team member may struggle.  Write down the specific steps that are needed for a successful transition, and schedule time in your calendar for them.

Follow these ideas for effective delegation and your team will become more empowered, more engaged, and more productive!