Top Ten Tips on...

Effective Delegation

31 July 2022
Effective Top Tens - Podcast
Quick, practical tips on a wide range of management and personal development themes.
Quite simply, your checklist for how to delegate tasks effectively... Effective delegation principles in a nutshell.

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Task overview

Provide the delegatee with a quick outline of the task coming up; give them a header, an overview. So they know pretty quickly the general direction and idea behind the task that's coming. Don't overwhelm them straight away with detail.


Why me?

If this is a delegation, they will be thinking, “well, why me?” It's really important to tell them and to tell them fairly quickly. So work out your reasons for choosing them for this particular task. Why you think it's helpful or a good match.



Explain the purpose or reason for the task. They need to know that too, so they can be fully motivated.



Provide the detail, the infill, what actually needs to be done. There’s more discussion of this in tip 10 below.


Standards & constraints

There may well be some standards to be met or some constraints to be worked within. So that could include a budget limit, or a deadline. It could include a consultation requirement - make sure you talk to A, B and C. You need to specify those particular standards or constraints. Remember this person is getting this task afresh, they don't know these things. And that also applies to where key resources might be. You may know that a particular folder they need to consult is three from the back in the third drawer down in the filing cabinet or in a particular electronic file, but they're not mind readers – they don't know what you know. So just put yourself in their shoes and think if you were doing this completely new without any previous thought or warning or background, what would you need to know, and make sure you pass that on.



Clarify your support role in this process. They will be doing the task, but you've got to provide whatever support is required to ensure that they do that task really well. For example, do you want to have a regular meeting, and if so, when and where? Do they need any additional skills or training?


The 3 Cs checkout for effective delegation

When you have finished your briefing, it’s worth finishing with this ‘3 Cs checkout’. The 3 Cs are clear, capable and confident. Are they clear about what they have to do? Do they feel capable of doing it? And are they confident (or if you prefer, committed)?


Revisit the brief

After the brief, invite them to come back, perhaps within 24 hours. Call a second meeting. And here's why. When you give a brief, the person is really fully concentrated on simply understanding the brief. They'll probably take notes. Only afterwards will they give it further thought: they may realise they didn’t understand something, or see something as ambiguous or vague. Or they may have an idea – “maybe I could do it this way – would my manager accept that?” There's a real difference between receiving the brief and then thinking and reflecting about the brief later. Everybody receiving a brief will do that, but then they haven't got permission or the opportunity to revisit the brief with their manager. I think you need to anticipate that as the delegator and say “take it away, have a think about it. I may have left things out or there maybe some uncertainties, or you may have your own ideas to add. That's great. Let's meet again at 10 o'clock tomorrow, just for 15 minutes. See if you've got anything else. to talk through.” That gives them real confidence and reassurance that they can come back with their own ideas and questions.


Sign off meeting

Before they commit publicly to the task, you may want to meet with the delegatee for a sign off meeting. In it, they present you with their plan, what they think they're going to be doing when, where, how, why with who? Just so that you can sign it off. That will give reassurance to both of you. You get the reassurance of having the final approval, to see if it meets your requirements, and they get reassurance that you’ve seen and approved it.


Your delegation management style

Think about your own role as a manager and in particular, your management style. There are three classic styles you might have, which will affect how you organise and provide the brief. You could either be directive, collaborative, or empowering.

If you were directive, then you would have prepared the brief, and you'd be telling them what the task is, in a fair degree of detail. There wouldn't be much opportunity for the delegatee to comment or ask questions or offer their own ideas. And once it's underway, you're more likely as the directive delegator to stay close to the task. So you might have more of a supervision role and an overseeing role on top of the task all the time with regular meetings.

If you're a collaborative style of manager, then it's much more likely that you will have called a meeting with the delegatee, and had a general discussion. You'd have given the overall headline and then invited some comments and you'd have had a conversation about what the brief should be, where they, the delegate, will be contributing probably as many ideas as you. And once the brief has been agreed (not imposed), then it's much more likely that the two of you will have arranged what kind of supervision and support you are going to provide.

If you were in an empowering style of manager, you might give the delegatee the headline, and then you leave it to them to come back with a detailed brief. So they have real ownership and understanding by the delegatee because they're doing the work around the infill of the detail. Then, of course they present their thoughts back to you as the brief for the task; they will have suggested what kind of support they want from you and how you resource the task. How much of it is left to them and probably the level of supervision you give is more on tap than on top.

So your particular style, your management preference, will determine how you deliver that brief. So the same steps will probably occur whichever of those styles you use, but how you do that will vary.

Effective Top Tens - Podcast
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