6 Steps to the Art of Delegation

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 10:25

Delegating tasks and responsibilities within an organization is crucial in creating successful workplaces. While it isn’t always easy, delegation done well can not only help your own workload and shows respect for your colleagues. While it may take more time up front, in the long run enabling other staff members to take over certain responsibilities not only frees up your time and head space, but also builds competencies within your team.

When you don’t delegate you risk:

  • Personal burnout
  • Producing poorer quality work
  • Holding others up due to backlogs in work process
  • Preventing others from developing their skills through new challenges
  • Reducing staff motivation through micromanagement or perceived lack of trust

When you do delegate successfully it:

  • Encourages staff involvement and makes them feel important
  • Empowers others to contribute their best work
  • Gives staff reasons to feel part of the larger organizational picture
  • Enables staff to make better, more informed, decisions

Delegation can be a win-win proposition when done well. Check out these steps to successful delegation:

  1. Decide what to delegate – Whenever possible give the staff member the whole project/task to do making sure that they understand the overall purpose. If it part of a project, make sure that they understand the larger picture within which their task falls. If this is your first attempt at delegation, make sure you start small or with a project that is straightforward with little complexity. Never delegate something that you aren’t willing to do yourself, this undervalues the staff you are working with. Consider including people in the process where possible, in deciding what things can be delegated and when.
  2. Match the project to the right staff – Consider staff’s strengths and weaknesses and delegate tasks that are in tune with staff member skills and interests. Consider if the individual has the time to do the task or if it will require some shuffling of other responsibilities. Choose the person who you’re confident can do the job well and who are self-motivated.
  3. Establish clear communication lines – Especially at the beginning of the assignment provide support, be available for questions and clarifications while staff members learn new tasks. Be up front about what your expectations are and give the individual all the information they need to complete the task assigned. Identify the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability so that the individual knows how to manage the task.
  4. Create clear outcomes and/or measures of success – People who understand clearly their role and responsibility and what needs to be accomplished are more likely to successfully meet the desired outcomes. Make sure the timeframe fits the task. Understand that there will be a learning curve and build this into projected deliverables. Discuss timelines and deadlines, a schedule of checkpoints, and build in a process of review.
  5. Follow up – Focus on the results and don’t micromanage the process otherwise you may be undermining the confidence of the staff member and wasting both of your time. As mentioned in step 4, create a schedule of checkpoints and a process of review so that both parties are “in the know” on how the task is progressing. Determine how often these checkpoints need to be keeping in mind that once you have delegated the task you need to give the individual flexibility in getting it done while meeting any final deadlines.
  6. Recognition/Appreciation – Saying thank you goes a long way in building motivation and morale in staff members. Be sure to recognize work done both to individual who did the work and to others who acknowledge a job well done. If there are rewards for a job well done make sure you pass them along to all involved.

While delegating sounds like a fantastic proposition, doing it well takes practice and can reap rewards both for you as the leader and for those working with you. Learn from your team and use delegation to provide opportunities to build trust and motivation and to enable personal development. Sharing responsibility builds capacity at all levels of your organization.


(2016). Principles of Leadership and Delegation. Health Knowledge.

Bernhagen, KT. (2011). 6 Tips for Delegating Success. Forbes.

Heathfield, SM. Delegation as a Leadership Style: Tips for Effective Delegation. The Balance.

Successful Delegation: Using the Power of other People’s Help. MindTools.