Becoming an effective leader

Planing the delegation

An important part of any successful delegation is being prepared for your meeting with the delegatee. One way you can do that is to consider 10 important issues that can affect the success of the delegation.


1.       Consider how you will describe this assignment to the delegatee.

Help your delegatee understand both the details of completing the task and how it fits into the big picture:

•        What is the purpose of the task?

•        How does it relate to the goals of your area or your organisation?

•        How has the task been done in the past (if it has)?

•        Why are you delegating it now? Be honest: Is it to free up your own time, or do you really expect this assignment to be an interesting stretch for the employee? Don’t destroy your credibility by insisting that a “sow’s ear” is a “silk purse.” Note: Employees may be more accepting of mundane assignments if they understand how the assignments relate to the goals of your area and the organisation.

•        When will the assignment begin?

•        Do you welcome changes/improvements in how it’s done?


2.       Consider what you might say to help the employee welcome this delegation.

Goals are met by employees who choose to meet them, not by employees who are ordered to meet them. By understanding some of the things that motivate your employees and then explaining to them how doing this job relates to their interests, you’ll get stronger commitment to the assignment.

•        Why did you choose her or him, and why are you confident she or he can do it?

•        What previous experience will serve the employee well in this situation?

•        How might taking this assignment benefit the employee

—what’s “in it” for him or her? Will it mean more visibility? Skill building? A break from the routine? A new challenge? In short, how might the “payoff ” fit with the employee’s career goals?

3.       Consider the employee’s present workload.

Never ask an employee to “do it in your spare time.” This type of delegation:

•        Implies that you believe the employee isn’t always busy and has spare time that is currently wasted.

•        Means the job will probably never get done, due to confusion over its importance or because of conflicts with other tasks the delegatee must do by a certain date.

•        Trivializes the job. If the assignment isn’t important enough to make time for, why do it at all?


Work with the delegatee to determine how you might reprioritize or reassign some of the delegatee’s tasks to allow her or him to succeed at this one.


4.       Consider what additional training the employee might need to perform the task well.

Can the employee get up to speed quickly enough?


5.       Set clear goals for the task you’ve selected.

Quantify the results you want as specifically as possible. What will success look like? How will results be measured and performance be evaluated?


6.       Consider the constraints (if any) on how the job should be done.

If you specify as few constraints as possible, you’ll find your employee will:

•        Be more motivated and committed to the job because she or he gets to call the shots.

•        Feel free to be innovative or make improvements in past methods.

•        Derive optimum learning, whether s/he succeeds or fails.


7.       Consider any nasty surprises that could crop up.

•        What unusual circumstances or “danger points” should the delegatee know about? What could possibly go wrong, or has gone wrong in the past?

•        How can that be avoided?

•        What should the employee do if it occurs—come to you to discuss possible solutions? Take action and report to you what she or he has done?


8.       Consider how much authority the delegatee will have. Remember, your employee is accountable to you, but you are accountable, in the end, for the accomplishment of this task.

•        What resources will she or he control? What tools, equipment, and dollars will be available?

•        Do you need to take steps to make any resources available?

•        Will there be any new reporting relationships or lines of communication associated with this assignment?

•        Whom else will he or she work with or interview?

•        Do you need to clear the way for your delegatee by talking or writing to these people?

•        What types of decisions may she or he make, and which ones should be made by you or someone else?

•        Under what circumstances do you want to review or approve the delegatee’s work? For instance, if the delegatee is to design a plan of action, is he or she to get your approval before proceeding? Or design it and simply inform you? Or design it and use it without your seeing it?


9.       Determine the project’s deadlines and a date when you’ll

review the completed project with the delegatee.

The review date should be far enough ahead of the final deadline that the employee (or you, in an emergency) could take corrective action if necessary. And remember, since the delegatee will need more time to do the job than you would, she or he should start earlier than you would.


10.     Establish interim checkpoints so you can make sure the person is making progress.

The frequency of these checkpoints will depend on how complex the job is, how many people are involved, and how experienced the delegatee is.

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