Becoming an effective leader

2.2 - Review own ability to motivate, delegate and empower others


For those who like to read rather than watch

Delegation is one the key skills of any busy manager and is often one of the most underused.

Delegation is the assignment of a whole or unit of work to another giving them responsibility and authority to carry it.

But the question is “who are you delegating for”. If you are purely delegating a task that you don’t like doing or simply don’t have the time to do, then we are missing the true value in delegation. This is more just dumping than true delegation.

True delegation takes into account the other person. What benefit do they receive from taking on this task? How does doing this task impact on their sense of value? Is this a skill that they would benefit from developing? Is it that are actually better at completing this task than you and if so, has that been communicated? Will this task enthuse and motivate the person?

So step 1 is good delegation is to identify what is appropriate to delegate (not just the jobs you don’t like or are pushed for time to complete)

Step 2 is to identify the right person.  They don’t necessarily have to be able to do the task yet. This can be a development opportunity, but of course you need to be able to support them if this is the case.

Step 3 is to define the task clearly, identify the time scales and consider the resources that are needed.

Step 4 Agree on a success criteria and how it fits into the bigger picture.

Step 5 be available for support and give recognition.


Now the way you go about delegating can be helped by recognising where a person sits in the Skill Will grid.

Skill is the current ability to do the task and Will is the motivation and commitment to doing it.

Too many managers focus delegation on those who are skilled and willing but run the risk of overloading those members of staff whilst others are left alone. This can lead to resentment in the team.

Equally if a manager does not delegate to others because they think that it is quicker do it themselves or even worse that only they can meet the standard required then you are essentially saying that you not trust your staff. And that’s a strong negative message to give out.

So with High Will High Skill people the coaching approach can work best. That is using enquiry rather than instruction. Ask them how they would go about the task, what resources they need, how they would know they have been successful rather than you telling them. They are willing and able remember so recognise that.


With High Will Low Skill the guidance and support approach works best. Share the expectations and be available to support them through the process as they build the skill. Remember that the time you invest in them now gives you back time in the future.


With Low Will High Skills the key is to find the motivation. Discuss with them the sorts of tasks or aspects of the job that inspire them or that they would be interested in developing further. These people have the potential to be High Will and High Skill.


And with Low Will Low Skill is the is the need for more direct instruction and close monitoring. Clarify set milestones in the process and monitor these for success. You may have to be prepared to explore consequences for a Low Will Low Skill staff member as this can be indicative of bigger problems.


Delegation then, is not complex but needs some thought and planning. So the next you grab the nearest member of your team and say “Do me a favour would you?” don’t kid yourself you’re really delegating.

Delegation Grid

When we delegate it is important to remember to delegate the task, the responsibility and the authority and avoid blame if things do not go according to plan. Try asking "What would you do differently if you did it over again?" rather than "What did you do it that way?"

Delegating to someone without experience of the task

1. Briefing - Explain task

          Define responsibility

          Set parameters of authority

          Deadlines and monitoring

          Explain what is to be done

          You question to help them explore options, barriers etc

2. Execution - They do the task


          Discuss performance

3. Delegated - They take full responsibility for task

          You retain accountability and the right to monitor





  • Ensure that the person selected has the time available and the skills required to carry out the task

  • Specify the essential details of the task, the deadlines to be met and the resources available

  • Explain the desired outcome, setting the objectives that are to be achieved
  • Allow those who are to carry out the task freedom to decide exactly how they are to perform it, but get them to explain their plan

  • Check that they understand what is required. Encourage discussion of possible approaches

  • Be prepared to accept that your own approach might not be the best

  • Be enthusiastic about your team members’ ideas

  • Be realistic about your expectations

  • Establish how often and in how much detail you expect progress reports to be made

  • Discuss those areas of the job that are sensitive to error or risk


Monitoring Progress


  • Allow the delegates to carry on with the job without interference

  • Encourage them to follow their own way of working if you are sure you are agreed on the desired result

  • Watch out for signs that things are going wrong, but don’t immediately pounce on mistakes

  • Intervene only if your staff do not spot their errors, or if sensitive areas are threatened

  • Be ready to offer help, advice and encouragement if called upon, but do not take over the task yourself

  • Try to give feedback informally rather than at a formal session



Evaluating Results


  • Was the performance up to the standard you have come to expect? Yes!

  • Do you praise and reward the efforts of the delegate?

  • Do you tell others about the performance?

  • Do you provide new challenges?


  • Was the performance of team members not up to the standard you have come to expect? No!

  • Were the results due to a misunderstanding between you and your delegates?

  • Was enough appropriate training provided?

  • Was the wrong person selected for the task?

  • Were there any unforeseen problems?

  • Could the mistakes which occurred have been prevented?


The term empowerment is often linked to delegation. Empowerment itself simply means to ‘… authorise …’ or to ‘… make able …’ (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). In the context of leadership, empowerment is concerned with appropriate delegation and development of team members. By giving opportunities to individuals to develop their skills, leaders are better able to delegate more. The benefit of delegation to a leader is to be found both in the morale of the team – highly motivated team members – and in personal capacity. The more work that is delegated to the team, the more time the leader has to focus on the strategic aspects of team development.


In practical terms, empowerment is about telling people what to achieve (the output/outcome) but not how to achieve it.