What is delegation?

Larisa Hinton
Friday, June 16, 2017

We often think we’re delegating when we ask someone to do something for us. But delegation is more than simply assigning tasks. Real delegation is asking someone else to be accountable for results. You’re giving the responsibility, along with the authority, to do what’s needed to take action and get the job done.

There are three parts of this process: who, what, and how.

Who you are delegating to is an important consideration. You need to take into account their experience, abilities, strengths, and professional development needs. What involves matching the assignment with the appropriate person, not just choosing the closest person at hand or the person who always says ‘yes’. And the how – you need to give clear expectations of what you want, communicate boundaries and requirements such as budget and deadlines; but not the nitty gritty details of how to do it.

Because we feel we can accomplish the task best, delegating may feel uncomfortable at first.  Maybe you don’t want to overload your colleagues, or think you can get it done quicker yourself, or you simply like the task and don’t want to give it up. These reasons can send messages of ‘I don’t trust you’, or ‘I’m a control freak’.

Keep in mind that delegating doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility. Involving others helps them grow professionally and although it may be true you can do it better or more quickly yourself, the time and effort you spend up front will be worth it in the long run.

For some great tips, take a look at the Delegator’s Dozen: A Preparation Checklist included in this SHRM article.