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Five Principles For Effective Delegation

Oftentimes new leaders struggle with delegation. To be a successful leader, one needs to learn the art of delegation
Five Principles For Effective Delegation

Delegation is where you are shifting the authority along with responsibilities to do a function or a decision. It could be a task, ownership of a particular function involving people decisions, or a strategy definition for program completion. Delegation enables leaders and creates future leaders.

If you are a lead or a new manager, the most important habit you need to cultivate is the art of delegation. It is an art in the sense if done correctly can avoid ambiguity, confusion, and incomplete results. The success of any delegation depends on few handy principles and if done correctly would ensure you get a successful result every time.

One of the problems new leaders encounter is the inability to delegate. Before the leadership journey, one typically would be good at what they do. At individual contribution levels, they excel at delivery. Combined with that success if they are empathetic to people and generally a people person is what leads them to the leadership role. As individual contributors, we are accountable to deliver on whatever is our responsibility. In most cases, the sole responsibility of whatever part we do is entrusted within us, and often, we do not come across delegation. When you make your leadership transition, this is something to learn afresh. Let's look at some of the principles to go by about delegation.

Right Work and the Right Person

It is important to make sure you are delegating the right task to the right person. The expectation should be that the person whom you are delegating to has the necessary experience and toolsets to work on it. In most cases, if you are delegating a task to someone, it is time critical and you are swamped with other equally important stuff. For it to work, analyze who in your staff is better equipped to take over. Once you find the person best suited to take care of it, assess their situation as well. You have to make sure that they do have the bandwidth to help you with this task. If you do not consider that aspect, they won't be able to do a better job not only for this task but their other important tasks as well.

If it is something that is going to take time, then don't just dump it on them and wait till it finishes. Have regular check-ins to ensure that it is indeed going in the right direction. Here the idea is to see how well they have progressed and also to see if they need any help. Don't offer to help unless they ask for it.


When you delegate a task to a person, you are essentially shifting the authority to that person. He/She will own the execution of that task. This is irrefutable and you don't want to delegate in the first place if you don't want to lose control. This is the first obstacle many new leaders encounter. Humans tend to do everything by themselves. It is not a race, you are essentially asking for help while you are delegating.

It is of paramount importance to realize this. You aren't losing control, just that you are shifting one of your tasks to someone you trust because you may be overloaded. Note the trust part. You would want someone to help you with something only if you trust them to deliver as best as you would otherwise.

Expectations of Results

Everyone involved should be clear about what the results should look like. There should be no ambiguity concerning that. You have to make sure this is understood to ensure that the decision-making process is as good as you would do. In time-critical problems, this is very important as you can understand.

Let's take an example, say if you want someone to re-estimate for a program because things changed and you are tight on budget, timelines. They always are tight! You need to make sure that the conditions, constraints, and solutions should be within the limits of the business. If this isn't communicated prior, it would warrant rework. Wasting your time and the other person's time as well. You don't want to be in a situation like that since ultimately you are responsible for the delivery of the solution. You are still answerable to your management.

Provide Guidance

See in the first place you are delegating your work and you might need to guide them on approaches. However, don't decide for them during the process. That is a futile exercise for both parties. At times because of your experience handling such things you would know your way around and the other person might not have had such experiences. Recon that, don't judge them but nudge them. Help them make the choices and decisions. Enabling them is the mentoring, you as a leader could provide to someone.

While choices have to be made, you can always share your thought-process of what you value to be more important and the other person doesn't need to agree. Diversity in thinking is what you need in a team to be successful. So listen to their choices and their reasonings as well and if it still has a pitfall, help them see the problem. Maybe, they aren't seeing it as a problem?

Recognize them

At the end of every delegation process, provide them with a sense of achievement. Provide them feedback but recognize them. These are opportunities to recognize your staff. They are learning and they would become better associates tomorrow.

A happy associate would excel at whatever he/she does and at the end of every task, be it their own or something that you delegated, make sure to give that pat on the back. There is more to gain from this behavior.