Delegation: It’s not the bosses job

Which of the following best describes your boss?

  1. My boss delegates effectively
  2. My boss delegates, then micro manages the task anyway
  3. My boss delegates, then never mentions the task again
  4. My boss does not delegate

The truth is many managers find it hard to delegate effectively and this is a common complaint made by all levels of employees. However, should the delegator be solely responsible for effective delegation?

Effective delegation is in fact a two way process that should involve both parties taking responsibility for its success. Employee development should be the number one reason for delegation. Employees today are taking more responsibility for their own development in many ways; such as identifying their own training needs, mentors and career paths. This proactive approach to development though seems to stop with delegation, where we become quick to criticise our managers for not delegating effectively.

Done well delegation benefits both delegator and delegatee, so both should have a vested interest in its success. The delegator may save time, learn how to set work objectives and develop themselves into a “coach” style of manager often re-energising him/herself in the process. The delegating manager will gain a strong commitment from staff through enabling them to realise their potential.

The delegatee learns how to complete more complex tasks and becomes more motivated. Delegatees can create future opportunities through the exposure that the delegated task brings. The relationship between both parties should improve with effective delegation.

So how do we get proactive in making sure effective delegation occurs and the benefits are realised by both parties?


1. Set the Scene

  • Make sure you and your boss know what you are passionate about, what you do well and what you find challenging. Most importantly share your vision for the future of your career.
  • As part of your conversations with your manager, tell them that you’d like to share some of their workload to realise the benefits of delegation for both parties. Discuss how delegation might happen and address any concerns raised. Ask them to let you know if there is a task or project that might suit your development plans, better still, suggest a task you think maybe suitable.
  • Agree on the task and make sure it is right for you. Do you have the fundamental capability to complete the task? If not, see if the task can be broken up so that you can take on a chunk of it until your capability builds.

2. Plan the task

  • Ensure the task’s requirements and constraints are fully understood. Articulate the task’s objectives using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) method which helps ensure there is no misunderstandings. In addition, ensure agreement is reached regarding the degree of autonomy being delegated. Is the task to be reported back each step of the way, or is full decision making authority being handed over?
  • Check the resources required which may include further training or meetings with other stakeholders. Request that your manager helps knock down any barriers to secure them.
  • Agree the reporting and monitoring schedule. This ensures that communication between both parties remains positive and averts any delegator tendency to micro manage or abandon you.
  • Present a “reverse brief” on what needs to be done – maybe by way of a detailed action plan. This should demonstrate your understanding of the task’s objective, requirements, deadlines, budget and resource allocation. It puts the delegator’s mind at rest and encourages further communication…

3. Improve workplace relationships

  • Depending on the task, there may well be other stakeholders that ought to be informed and it is best this come from the delegator. Your delegator’s manager may need to know when a strategically important task is delegated. You should request an introduction to key stakeholders and a heads up on any politics.
  • The delegator should look for opportunities to provide feedback, but you may need to prompt this by conducting a self review and discussing it with the delegator. If the task starts to go off the rails, work out the options, and ask the delegator for advice to get things back on track.
  • Remember that aims of a delegated task become two fold; there are the task’s aims and the aim that the delegation process be successful. If the task is completed successfully, hopefully the delegator will recognise and give credit to your efforts and the benefits of achieving the dual aims can be enjoyed by both parties. If the task wasn’t successful, work with the delegator to identify the reasons, reflect on your learnings and apply them to your next delegated task. At least that way benefits from the delegation process can still be realised.

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