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8 Ways Leaders Delegate Successfully

  • Deborah Grayson Riegel

problem solving and delegation process

Start by picking the right person for the job.

For many leaders, delegating feels like something they know they should do, but don’t do. Senior leaders often struggle with knowing what they can delegate that would actually feel helpful to them, or how to delegate responsibility and not just tasks, or what responsibilities could serve as a learning and growth opportunity for others below them. Before leaders can successfully and effectively delegate, they need to understand their own resistance. Perhaps they’re reluctant to delegate because they don’t want to give up control, or they don’t want to look like they’re slacking. For the senior leader to start delegating and stick with it, he needs to address these feelings, challenge his own assumptions about “what if,” and try small, low-risk delegation experiments to see whether his assumptions are rooted in the truth or in his own desire for safety. Delegating well helps leaders maximize their resources, ensuring that they’re focusing on their highest priorities, developing their team members, and creating a culture where delegation isn’t just expected — it’s embedded in the culture.

In their book, Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People , authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Charles O’Reilly claim that there is mounting evidence that delegating more responsibility for decision making increases productivity, morale, and commitment, all of which impact company culture. A 2015 Gallup study of the entrepreneurial talents of 143 CEOs on the Inc. 500 list showed that companies run by executives who effectively delegate authority grow faster, generate more revenue, and create more jobs.

problem solving and delegation process

  • Deborah Grayson Riegel is a professional speaker and facilitator, as well as a communication and presentation skills coach. She teaches leadership communication at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and has taught for Wharton Business School, Columbia Business School’s Women in Leadership Program, and Peking University’s International MBA Program. She is the author of Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School, and Life and the best-selling Go To Help: 31 Strategies to Offer, Ask for, and Accept Help .

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How to Delegate Effectively: 9 Tips for Managers

Manager Delegating Work to an Employee

  • 14 Jan 2020

Delegation is a vital management skill . But for some, it’s the hardest to put into practice.

There are several reasons why managers may shy away from delegating work. They might:

  • Think it would take longer to explain the task than actually completing it themselves
  • Want to feel indispensable to their team by being the keeper of specific knowledge
  • Enjoy completing certain projects so prefer not to reassign them
  • Feel guilty about adding more work onto another employee’s to-do list
  • Lack confidence or trust in who they need to transfer the project to
  • Believe that they’re the only ones who can do the job right

Whatever the reason, it’s important to continue honing the skill, as refusing to delegate can have negative consequences. Not only will you overload your schedule and prioritize the wrong tasks, but your employees will miss out on valuable learning and growth opportunities.

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What Is Delegation and Why Is It Important?

Delegation refers to the transfer of responsibility for specific tasks from one person to another.

From a management perspective, delegation occurs when a manager assigns specific tasks to their employees. By delegating those tasks to team members, managers free up time to focus on higher-value activities while also keeping employees engaged with greater autonomy.

According to a Gallup study , CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33 percent higher revenue. These executives know they can’t accomplish everything alone and position their team to tackle tasks they’re confident they’ll achieve—in turn empowering employees, boosting morale, and increasing productivity. In the process, CEOs free up their time to focus on activities that will yield the highest returns and grow the company.

Here are nine ways you can start delegating more effectively to cultivate high-performing teams.

9 Delegation Tips for Managers

1. know what to delegate.

Not every task can be delegated. For example, performance reviews or any personnel matters should be handled by you. After all, hiring the right talent and knowing each employee’s strengths and weaknesses will ultimately make you better at assigning deliverables and transferring responsibility to the appropriate team members.

Several other day-to-day activities don’t require your oversight, though. Is there a task you regularly tackle despite knowing your co-worker is better equipped to complete it? Would assigning the project to other employees help bolster their careers? If there’s someone who could do the work better, or you think this could be a teachable moment, delegate. It will show you trust and value your team, while also giving you time to focus on more strategic projects.

2. Play to Your Employees’ Strengths and Goals

Every employee should have goals they’re working toward, and within those goals are opportunities to delegate. For example, maybe you have a direct report who wants to gain management experience. Is there an intern they could start supervising, or a well-defined project they can own the execution of? The type of work you delegate could factor into their professional development plan.

For other tasks, there’s likely someone on your team with the specific skill set needed to achieve the desired result. Leverage that and play to your employees’ strengths. When someone has a higher chance of excelling, they’re more motivated and engaged , which then benefits the entire business.

Related: How to Become a Better Manager

3. Define the Desired Outcome

Simply dumping work onto someone else’s plate isn’t delegating. The projects you hand off should come with proper context and a clear tie into the organization’s goals.

“You’ve got to have real clarity of objective,” says Harvard Business School Professor Kevin Sharer in the online Management Essentials course . That includes having alignment on “what does good look like” and by what timeline, and “the technique of measuring accomplishment.”

Before anyone starts working on a project, they should know what they need to complete and by when, including the metrics you’ll use to measure the success of their work.

4. Provide the Right Resources and Level of Authority

If the person you’re delegating work to needs specific training, resources, or authority to complete the assigned project, it’s your role as a manager to provide all three. Setting someone up for an impossible task will frustrate both sides; your colleague won’t be able to achieve the desired outcome, and then you’ll likely need to put that work back on your to-do list.

This is also where you need to fight the urge to micromanage . Telling your co-worker, step-by-step, how you would accomplish the task and then controlling each part of the process won’t enable them to learn or gain new skills. Focus instead on what the desired end goal is, why the task is important, and help address any gaps between the outcome and their current skill set.

5. Establish a Clear Communication Channel

While you want to avoid micromanaging, you do want to establish a communication channel so that the person you’re delegating to feels comfortable asking questions and providing progress updates.

“You’ve got to have some way to communicate so that the person you delegated to can come back to you and report,” says Sharer in the Management Essentials course . “You’ve got to have some way along the way to see how things are going. It isn’t fire and forget. That is, ‘I just give you the task and I don’t worry about it anymore. We’ve got to have some way to monitor the progress along the way without me getting in your way.’”

Setting up regular check-ins and providing feedback throughout the project can help with this.

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

6. Allow for Failure

This step is particularly important for the perfectionists who avoid delegating because they think their way is the only way to get the work done. You need to allow for failure—not because your employees might fail, but because it will enable experimentation and empower the people you’re assigning tasks to, to take a new approach.

If you’re open to new ideas and approaches to the work, you’ll have an easier time delegating when able.

7. Be Patient

As a manager, you likely have more years of experience in your field. Because of this, a task you can complete in 30 minutes might take an employee a full hour the first time they complete it.

You might be tempted to refrain from delegating certain tasks knowing that you can get them done faster, but be patient with your employees. Think back to the first time you completed a specific task early on in your career. You probably weren’t as efficient as you are now; your time management skills have improved.

As you continue to delegate and your employees become more familiar with the tasks that need to be completed, you’ll notice that the work will get done faster over time.

Related: 7 Strategies for Improving Your Management Skills

8. Deliver (and Ask For) Feedback

In addition to monitoring progress, you should also deliver feedback to your employees after the tasks you’ve delegated are complete.

If a task wasn’t completed as assigned, don’t be afraid to offer constructive criticism. Your employees can take this feedback and make changes the next time a similar task is assigned. On the other hand, remember to provide positive feedback and show your appreciation when a task was done well.

To ensure you’re delegating effectively, you’ll also want to ask your team for any feedback that they can give you. Ask your employees if you provided clear instructions and determine if there’s anything you can do to better delegate in the future.

9. Give Credit Where It’s Due

After you’ve delegated tasks and they’ve been seen through to completion, credit those who achieved the work.

“Recognizing that success is because of your team is not only right, but it has the added benefit of making those around you more engaged—making you even more successful,” writes HBS Online Executive Director Patrick Mullane for Richtopia. “It’s counter-intuitive, but not claiming success for yourself will lead to more future wins.”

The more you thank and credit those you’ve delegated work to, the more likely it is they will want to help you on other projects in the future.

Management Essentials | Get the job done | Learn More

Honing Your Delegation Skills

Delegating isn’t easy; it’s a skill that must be practiced and honed over time. But the better you become at aligning the right people with the right tasks and responsibilities, the more effective you’ll become at your job as a manager.

Are you interested in further improving your managerial skills? Download our free leadership and management e-book to find out how. Also, explore our eight-week online Management Essentials course , which will provide you with real-world tools and strategies to excel in decision-making, implementation, organizational learning, and change management.

This post was updated on June 2, 2021. It was originally published on January 14, 2020.

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8 steps to effective delegation.

May 4, 2020 By Dr. Rob Sheehan

This is because, up to this point in their careers, they have been rewarded for their personal excellence – making sure that everything is done to their very high standards.  But then the scope of their responsibilities increases as they move up in organizations.  They might toy with being a workaholic for a while to make sure they keep their hands on everything.  But sooner or later, even this won’t work.  They have to figure out how to delegate .

Here are eight key steps for effective delegation from a recent article in Harvard Business Review *, and I could not agree more with these:

1.  Pick the right person.   And don’t go to the same person all the time.  Sometimes the right person is someone who needs to develop skills, shown an interest, or needs a challenge .

2.  Clearly communicate how much autonomy the person has.   The amount of “rope” you give someone should increase over time as they perform well .

3.  Describe the desired results in detail.   The person needs to know where the “goal line” is and how success will be measured .

4.  Provide the necessary resources.   You need to set people up for success .

5.  Establish checkpoints and milestones.   People need to know if they are making progress .

6.  Encourage people to try new and creative methods for pursuing the goal.   And reward people for trying new things .

7.  Create a motivating environment.   You need to know when to cheer, when to coach, and when to step back.  And definitely celebrate successes .

8.  Tolerates risks and mistakes; make sure to turn these into learning opportunities.   Don’t just say “Oh, it’s okay.”  Help the person review what happened and what they can learn .

Of course it is a little painful to see a colleague fall short at something that you know you could have done much better.  But, excellence depends on a team of people performing at a high level.  And the only way you will build this kind of team is to delegate .

*Riegel, D. G., “8 Ways Leaders Delegate Successfully,” Harvard Business Review online, August 15, 2019.

About Dr. Rob Sheehan

Dr. Rob Sheehan is the volunteer blog editor of Insights With Impact and serves on the faculty at the University of Maryland where he teaches for the the Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Do Good Institute. Read more...

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How to Delegate More Effectively: Four Approaches

Trust between people is not enough to make delegation work. Leaders must also scrutinize the level of trust in the process — and match their approach carefully.

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Carolyn Geason-Beissel/MIT SMR | Getty Images

Delegation still bedevils many leaders. From the overworked manager trying to alleviate burnout to the vice president trying to take a vacation, many leaders need to delegate more but avoid it. Transferring responsibilities to someone else often creates worry, friction, or unsatisfying results. But delegation is not optional: Individuals and organizations can’t grow unless people learn how to effectively delegate both tasks and decision-making.

In our work over the past decade, we’ve seen delegation arise as a leadership challenge in organizations across many industries. Indeed, in health care, manufacturing, and life sciences companies alike, the question of when and how to delegate remains difficult. To address this problem, we developed a framework based on two core dynamics at the heart of effective delegation: people and process. Trust in people is nothing new to conversations on effective delegation; however, trust in organizational processes is an equally important but underappreciated consideration in delegation decisions.

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In our work with leaders, we’ve seen that no matter how reliable an individual employee may be, if the underlying organizational process that is central to the delegation is erratic or underdeveloped, delegation tends to break down. So our framework advises leaders to consider two key questions when entertaining the delegation scenarios: “To what extent do I trust the people?” and “To what extent do I trust the process?”

Many well-intentioned and trustworthy people have failed to execute on a delegated task because of an underdeveloped process.

Trust in people is based on a repeated track record of meeting goals, shared behavioral norms, and consistent interpersonal relationships. It is a trust in the individual’s abilities and skills across a variety of domains: Does Mary have the requisite skills to deliver the results she promised? Does David treat team members in a respectful manner? Trust in process, on the other hand, is based on organizational functioning and speaks to whether a process delivers consistent, predictable, and actionable outcomes: Does the R&D process yield new, marketable products on a consistent basis? Is our sales forecasting process accurate in its revenue predictions?

In our consulting engagements, we’ve seen many well-intentioned and trustworthy individuals fail to execute on a delegated task because of an underdeveloped process; therefore, we suggest that it is the nexus of trust in people and trust in process that should drive the form of delegation that a leader chooses. This article offers a framework with four ways leaders can approach delegation with the confidence that their choice matches the trust level at hand.

About the Authors

Beth K. Humberd, Ph.D., is an associate professor of management at the Manning School of Business at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Scott F. Latham, Ph.D., is a professor in strategy at the Manning School of Business at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

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By Hannah L. Miller Leaders Staff

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Hannah L. Miller, MA, is the senior editor for Leaders Media. Since graduating with her Master of Arts in 2015,...

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Updated Aug 9, 2023

Effective Delegation: A Leader’s Time Management Tool

What stops most entrepreneurs from delegating tasks, how to work through delegation roadblocks, 1. choose the right hires for the company , 2. teach critical thinking and problem solving, 3. empower your team to make decisions , 4. explain “no” or “not yet”, 4 steps for putting delegation into action.

  • Give Team Members the Authority to Do Their Jobs

As author and leadership coach John Baldoni puts it: “If you want to work 160 hours a week, don’t delegate.” Since time is a business owner’s most valuable resource, effective delegation is a necessity. For leaders, the definition of delegation is deciding what work is your top priority. With this being said, the rest of the tasks you can’t do with excellence must be handed over to a team member who can perform them best. This process increases your productivity, growth, impact, and personal freedom as an entrepreneur. 

Research shows delegation is key to growing companies and generating more profit. For instance, Gallup found that the 143 high delegator CEOs on the Inc. 500 list had a 112 percent higher growth rate. In addition to this, they also produced “33 percent greater revenue.” 

So, if it’s proven delegation is great for business, why do so few leaders know how to delegate? 

  • Lack of trust and confidence 
  • Limiting beliefs such as, “If I don’t do this task, it won’t get done” or “I can do it more efficiently and effectively” 
  • Problems with control and handing authority over to others 
  • Fear of being unneeded
  • Concern over putting too much work on an employee’s plate 

It’s important to note that effective delegation is different from directing or coaching employees on how to do their work. Rather than telling someone how to achieve the established goals, delegating provides more freedom in how the person decides to accomplish the goal. As General George Patton put it: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” 

Yet, this requires a high level of trust and confidence . When an increase in productivity, products, and freedom are on the line, uncertainty stops most leaders from delegating tasks. However, executives who place a heavy focus on multiplying leaders within the organization create trust and belief between themselves and their team members. Fears subside because a team culture of excellence has already been established. 

Here’s how to create the trust needed for effective delegation:

Developing trust and confidence really begins during the hiring process . Before deciding to add new team members, it’s important to be strategic about who you hire. Filling a position quickly without thinking about how it could affect the business long-term is why many organizations lose hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that bad hires cost companies around 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings. 

This is why it’s important to pay attention to the overall impact of adding a particular person to your team. Without doing this, delegation and its benefits cannot become a reality. As the father of modern advertising David Ogilvy said, “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it . . .  Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine. ”

When doing this, ask yourself:

  • What void do they fill? 
  • Are they displaying essential leadership skills?
  • What job can they do that you can’t do, aren’t good at or need to hand off to someone else? 
  • How will they increase productivity and profits? 
  • What purpose do they serve? 
  • Are they the right person for the job? 
  • What about being the right person for the team? 
  • How do they bring a diverse perspective to the group?
  • Do their strengths and weaknesses complement other team members’?
  • How does working in their green zone free up my time and also benefit the business? 
  • What responsibilities could potentially be delegated to this person?

Start developing leaders at all levels by teaching employees—no matter their position—how to think critically and develop solutions to problems. Set team members up for success by providing a simple process for problem solving .

When an issue occurs:

  • First, have them review the initial goal and strategy. Ask them to look for what’s preventing the goal from being accomplished (bottlenecks). 
  • Next, help them identify the root of the problem using the 5 Whys method. Have them ask why an issue occurred five times until they understand the fundamental issue. 
  • After this, show them how to conduct research on the core problem using primary and secondary sources. 
  • Then, develop a list of well-formulated solutions together based on what was found. 
  • Before deciding on a fix, walk the employee through a quick decision making process. Show them how to reverse engineer potential outcomes. 
  • After a decision is made, teach them how to put the solution into motion. 
  • Finally, have them monitor the outcomes of the new plan. 

Before delegating and handing over complete authority for new tasks, teach employees how to make good decisions that accomplish established goals. Organically teach team members how to do this by working through the process below. 

  • Providing 2-3 self-developed solutions.
  • Presenting these choices to the employee. 
  • Explaining which one you’re choosing and why.  
  • Having the employee select 2-3 solutions.
  • Getting them to present them to you. 
  • Asking them why they chose this option. 
  • Giving approval for implementation
  • Letting them work through a decision on their own.
  • Allowing the freedom to implement it without your approval. 
  • Receiving a report back on how they took care of a problem.  
  • Repeating the process as needed. 

Great team players are doers. Through ideas and pitches, they’re always looking for ways to make significant contributions to the company. Yet leaders know the organization can only focus on work that fulfills the business’s just cause. CEOs who handle “no” or “not yet” with grace combat the potential for an employee to feel unheard or rejected. In doing so, they combat decreased morale and engagement. 

Continue building confidence, even when the answer is “no” by: 

  • Earnestly listening to what the employee has to say. 
  • Taking a moment to first thank and acknowledge them for thinking outside the box. 
  • Explaining the “why” behind your answer. For example, CEOs have a different perspective on how to achieve the high-level vision of the organization since that is their primary focus. 
  • Being transparent about the role the employee plays in achieving the company’s collective vision. 
  • Encouraging the spirit of those who are hungry to serve to the best of their abilities. 
  • Recognizing their talents and strengths and placing them in charge of tasks and jobs that suit their unique gifts.

Once roadblocks are eliminated and the trust required for delegation is established, the process of increasing your time, freedom, and profits alongside your team can begin. Begin handing over tasks by following the simple process below. 

1. Decide What Tasks Need to be Delegated

The first step in effective delegation is deciding what tasks others can take ownership of. As a leader, the best way of doing this is by practicing value-driven time management . The “Green Zone, Red Zone” method listed below helps entrepreneurs figure out exactly where their focus should be at work and the areas where team members or contractors can take over. 

Find Your Green Zone

Your green zone outlines high-value work that you thrive in. These responsibilities evoke feelings of passion and purpose and help you make the most of every day. For example, this work connects your talents with work that serves the company in ways that no one else can. If a business owner’s green zone is relationship-building, this could look like spending time developing strong partnerships with clients or multiplying more leaders by providing mentorship opportunities. 

Get Rid of Tasks in Your Red Zone

In contrast, your red zone defines the areas that are low-value tasks. For example, managing payroll each month is in an entrepreneur’s red zone because this isn’t an area a business owner is most valuable to their company. 

Start maximizing your time and value by: 

  • Writing down any work you dislike or need to say “no” to in order to move into your green zone. 
  • Identifying what needs to be delegated by making a list of responsibilities that don’t play to your strengths or maximize your time. 
  • Creating an itemized list of what jobs and responsibilities should be delegated out to others based on the information above. 

2. Select the Person Who is the Best Fit for the Job

As mentioned above, making diverse key hires with varying strengths gives leaders options. Most startup owners are used to wearing all the hats when they first open their company, but as a business grows, so should its level of excellence. When delegating, put the right person in the right job—someone who can do it better than anyone else on the team.  

Before assigning a task to someone:

  • Think about each individual team member’s unique gifts. 
  • Reverse engineer the outcome of assigning this job to the top three candidates who could take over this responsibility. 
  • Who is likely to be the most successful and why?
  • What does their current workload look like? Do they have time for the job? 
  • If not, take a look at their current role and consider tweaks to the work they’re doing. For instance, create space for this added responsibility by taking one or more red zone duties off their plate. Minor changes to the work each team member does helps create a more productive, cohesive team. 

3. Set Clear Objectives of Success  

Once a leader determines the right person for the task, it’s time to have a delegation conversation with the selected employee. Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, explains: “When you delegate work to a member of the team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe the objectives.”

Before speaking with an employee, sit down and determine exact measures of success for the task at hand. This can be done by creating clearly defined KPIs or outlining what the overarching goal is, and then having the employee create their own three to five OKRs. Either way, a person needs to know how their performance will be measured. 

Setting goals and performance markers are important because it defines what a job well done looks like. Additionally, goal-setting motivates people to fulfill clearly defined objectives. For example, a Harvard Business study found people with unwritten goals are 10 times more successful than those who don’t have goals. The three percent who do have written goals are even more successful—outperforming those with unwritten goals by three times.

After determining the measure of success, meet with the employee to discuss the delegation of the task. Listen to any of their concerns and be open to answering any questions they might have. Additionally, let the employee know how you plan to support them as they take on this new responsibility. 

4. Influence Ownership

Delegating a task won’t produce the desired outcomes unless an employee wants to be accountable for the task. One of the key differences between leaders and managers is leaders use influence to get people to fulfill the company’s mission, while managers use authority. When delegating, create buy-in so employees change their mindset around receiving additional responsibilities. Instead of framing it as “more work,” provide “more opportunities” to help employees grow as leaders. Use the strategies below for additional ways on how to influence ownership.

Recognize and Build Up Employees’ Individual Talents

Begin the process of growing new hires as leaders on their first day with the company. Pinpoint their strengths and let them know how they can use their unique gifts to collectively change the world for the better. In addition to this, consistently mentor growth in these areas. As a result, it’ll come as no surprise when a team member is asked to step up in areas where their talents are evident. 

Communicate Appreciation and Provide Value

When delegating new responsibilities, build up a person’s confidence by explaining why they were chosen for the job. In addition to this, communicate how valuable they are to the organization, and how this new job signifies their growth with the company. Discuss also how they will be rewarded and acknowledged for success in these added duties. For example, map out milestones, and let employees know what they can look forward to as they work hard in achieving their goals. 

Give Team Members the Authority to Do Their Job s

As the founder of Life.Church Craig Groeschel says, “When you delegate authority, you create leaders.” Delegation is one of those time management skills that also helps others. Simply put, invest in leaders at all levels by teaching your team how to be leaders. This builds trust and lets executives give people authority over their work. Not doing so is an inefficient business model. The point of delegating is increasing productivity and growth. For this reason, empower your team, show your belief in them, and give them responsibilities they feel proud to own. Doing so will build a stronger, trusting team culture in your workplace. It also helps develop scalable systems that don’t solely rely on one person—you—to keep the business flowing and growing.


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Creating A Culture That Promotes Problem-Solving Delegation

In my coaching work, one common issue I see – especially in newly minted managers – is learning how to be successful in delegation. That’s not to say that these managers aren’t comfortable or are unwilling to delegate; most are more than happy to hand off assignments to their various team members. The problem is more of learning not to simply delegate tasks, but to delegate responsibility to those they lead.

One clear example of this form of delegation is problem-solving. Given how most managers are promoted to these positions based on their past accomplishments and level of expertise , it’s only natural that they feel responsible for trying to solve whatever problems their team encounters. Besides, it’s hard to turn people away who come to you asking for your help as this is a sign that they not only value and respect your insights, but that they trust your abilities to help resolve the situation.

Unfortunately, what this inevitably creates is a culture where, at best, your employees have an unwanted dependency on management to fix problems when they arise, or at worst, employees who basically clock-out when they arrive at work because the organization’s culture has removed any expectations on them to contribute their own problem-solving capabilities to the process.

Instead of being the go-to person for when your employees encounter an obstacle, why not be the leader who empowers them to solve it on their own? Why not give them the resources to solve the problem instead of allowing them to leave it on your plate? By implementing the four steps below, you can create a culture that not only promotes delegating more than just basic tasks, but one which encourages your employees to be active participants in your organization’s problem-solving process.

1. Be the first to show trust in the relationship When leaders don’t hand out responsibility for solving issues to those they lead it’s often because they don’t want to risk losing control. And yet, if one thinks about it, empowering your employees to take charge for solving a problem doesn’t abdicate you of your role as their leader. Rather, it serves to free you from having to address one more detail that draws your focus away from the bigger issues that you should be addressing.

So how do we let go of this need to solve all the problems your employees come across? The first step is to trust them to solve it by giving them both the resources and latitude to tackle the problem. Granted, for someone whose used to putting out the fires, this can be a scary proposition. That is until you remember that you hired your employees to do this job. So why not let them do it?

2. Tell your employees to offer some possible solutions when they bring up problems While trusting your employees to solve problems on their own is a major step forward, it’s also important that you follow this up with the clear message that if they bring problems to your attention, they also need to have at least one possible solution.

The reason for this is two-fold. First, it’s important to remember that like you, your employees are used to simply going to you with their problems and then expecting you to solve them. So, simply telling them that they now have to solve their problems on their own will feel like you’re just adding more work to their plate.

On the other hand, if you welcome their bringing problems to your attention – along with a possible solution for how to address it – they’ll not only have an easier time making this transition to solving problems without having to run it by you first, but both of you will begin to appreciate how capable they are of solving these issues on their own.

3. Give your employees space to do things differently and make mistakes along the way We’ve all read about how we need to shift our perception of failure from being something to avoid to being an opportunity to gain a sense of clarity and understanding about what’s missing in our assumptions.

If your organization is to gain any benefits from failure, you need to show your employees that you trust their ability to figure out how to address the problems they’re facing. And if things do go wrong, rather than simply blaming them for ‘screwing up’, use it instead as a teachable moment where your employees can learn why the failure occurred and what you can collectively do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

4. Show your employees that they can manage just fine without you In his book “Management Challenges for the 21st Century”, Peter Drucker wrote that “most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution.”

As leaders, one of the most effective ways we can facilitate and encourage our employees to reach their full potential is by empowering them to not only see that they can come up with viable solutions to the problems they’re facing, but by showing them that we’ll provide them with the necessary resources and support to implement their ideas.

In so doing, leaders can instill a sense of confidence and assurance in their employees that they can manage things just fine, without having to call upon those in charge to figure out what they have to do next.

As organizations begin to shift from the rigid hierarchical management of the past to the more open and collaborative models going forward, the time is fast approaching where leaders can no longer presume that they alone are capable of addressing the problems their organization is facing. Instead, what’s required from today’s leadership is creating a culture where delegation goes beyond simply handing out tasks to providing opportunities for others to take the lead.

Such cultural changes will prove to be a critical factor to determining an organization’s long-term viability and chances for continued success in the years to come.

12 comments on “ Creating A Culture That Promotes Problem-Solving Delegation ”

Great post.Its very important to give employees space and create a confidence in them for solving the problems.

In the process they can make mistakes but they will learn from it and in this way they can acquire the skills for problem solving.

Thanks Vikas; glad you enjoyed it.

Hi Tanveer, you have shared an outstanding post. You points of participating in problem solving process is really need of every business, no matters whether it is big or small. Because I too believe that participation leads to innovation. Thanks a million for sharing. Keep posting such gratifying work.

Thanks Kevin; appreciate the kind words and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this piece.

I appreciate the information, which is sensible advice for any company regardless of size. Would like to hear more about what resources to make available so that employees are better able to solve problems.

The kind of resources you would offer to your employees is subjective to the problem they are facing. For example, in some cases, it might be assigning other people to help them address the problem or it could be that they need to be given time during the workday that is specifically marked for working on testing possible solutions (for those who would with time codes to identify which projects they spent time on during the pay period).

As you can see, it's not a generalized, one-size-fits-all resource that leaders need to give their employees to allow them to fix these problems on their own. Rather, it's a matter of those in charge assesssing what needs their employees have, what resources they have at their disposal, and what they can provide to help their team correct this issue.

I hope that helps to address your query, Sylvie.

Creating a learning environment key as you state in #3, but candidly in today’s turbulent economy I think people are still worried/insecure about making mistakes and losing their jobs. It takes great leadership and resources as you clearly outline in your post.

I concur that, despite the positive outlooks being pushed by economists, people and organizations are still wary about what lies ahead. And yet, allowing the sense of fear and apprehension to persist in your workplaces only serves to hold your employees back from taking initiatives to address gaps in what's being offered in your market, or pushing for new ways to do things as a possible means to improve processes.

By holding control over such decisions, instead of delegating it out to your team who often have a better understanding of the various variables in play, organizations are only holding themselves back, rather than keeping their organization afloat while waiting for the sun to break through.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jim.

I have seen the problem as well – From my point of view when you delegate you ask for a result, let people figure out how to get their themself! Be happy to support, but let people develop by figuring out how to do it.

Exactly, Mads. Sharing responsibility with those you lead not only allows your employees to develop and refine their skills, but it also takes some of the load off your plate so you can focus on some of the larger impact issues beyond the day-to-day ones.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

Very informative post … i think showing only the support you trust your team that they can handle problem – may help them boost their confidence to solve any problem.

Absolutely; it's hard not to feel confident when those around you demonstrate that they have trust in your abilities and are driven to help you succeed. Fostering such sentiments in your employees is the mark of real leadership.

Comments are closed.

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How to Overcome Delegation Problems Effectively [4 Tips]

Delegation is one of the most powerful tools a manager has in the pursuit of organizational success, but it is difficult to master.

Why is it so hard?

Effective delegation takes time and thorough communication with employees.

Managers are busy people and commonly fall into the trap of thinking that it will be easier to do the work themselves. It’s true that taking the time to fully explain an assignment or train someone to complete the task is an investment in the short run. Effective delegation also requires some trust and confidence in your employee’s skills and experience. This is particularly challenging when you are in the process of forming a new team and still getting to know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses.

Letting go of control comes with some risks and requires you to become comfortable with the idea that employees will sometimes make mistakes during the learning process. However, the time and trust that you invest in your employees now will have a long-term payoff, helping you to build a more knowledgeable and skilled team and freeing you up to complete work that only you can do.

How to Overcome Barriers of Delegation

Delegation means assigning another person complete responsibility and authority to get the work done, while still monitoring and supporting his or her performance as needed. Many managers don’t know how to delegate effectively, even those who have years of experience supervising others. Fortunately, delegation is a skill that can be mastered with some planning and practice. Here are four tips to get you started: Consider the goals of your business and team. Take an inventory of key responsibilities, tasks, projects, expectations, and commitments.

  • Consider the goals of your business and team. Take an inventory of key responsibilities, tasks, projects, expectations, and commitments.
  • Prioritize and determine the responsibilities that you must complete on your own. These will remain your sole responsibility.
  • Identify the responsibilities that make sense for you to share or collaborate on with others.
  • Identify the responsibilities that you can fully delegate to others.

When you create your lists, be realistic. Overextending yourself by trying to do too much on your own (or collaborating too much on assignments that could be completely delegated to others) will only slow down the overall progress of the team.

How Can I Improve My Delegation Skills?

As a manager, your primary role is to coach and develop the abilities of your team members . Delegation is one way to provide interesting learning and development opportunities for each person on the team. Here are three tips to help you with this process:

1) Look for ways to match your employees’ career-development needs with the business’ current goals. Let employees know why you are delegating projects, assignments, and tasks to them. Get comfortable with the idea that your employees may not approach or complete the assignment in exactly the same way you would.

2) Being clear about the purpose of the assignments, the performance outcomes, and the deadlines for completion is important and has some benefits: Employees who are given clear direction up front will be able to see the whole picture. It will also eliminate any anxiety they may have about differences in work style.

3) When you delegate assignments, you will also want to discuss the scope of each assignment and provide all of the background information necessary to support your employees’ success. In addition, be sure to define the materials and budget available to your employees so they understand the constraints under which their assignments must be completed.

4) Finally, share why you chose to delegate a certain assignment to a specific employee. If the assignment supports an employee’s long-term career goals or showcases his or her talents, say so.

When you delegate a task, express your commitment to the employee’s success and discuss potential barriers that he or she may encounter. When done correctly, employees will feel committed to their new assignments and motivated by the challenge—and the entire team will benefit.

For more tips on effective delegation, contact CMOE.

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5 tips for delegating tasks effectively 

By Michael Feder

Two sets of hands, one handing off a baton

Read about our editorial review process.

This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee.  Read more about our editorial process.

Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

Reviewed by Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

At a glance

  • Benefits of delegating include improved efficiency, problem solving, motivation and creativity.
  • To delegate effectively , you must identify and assign the right people to tasks, engage clear communication and leverage tools for efficiency, among other things.
  • When delegation works , you'll notice improved productivity, quality of work and employee satisfaction.
  • University of Phoenix offers  free career tools and resources  for those seeking further guidance on their career journey.

This article was updated on December 6, 2023.  

Why delegating tasks is good for everyone

Delegation offers more advantages than just getting tasks off your plate. Done right, it can transform your team into a well-oiled, super-productive machine that achieves more. It can also empower team members by offering opportunities to develop skills and improve their time management .

In fact, no matter your leadership style , delegating tasks is a way for your team to step up, hone their skills and gain confidence.

It’s not always second nature, however, to delegate work. Here, we take a closer look at why delegating is a good idea, and provide five tips for learning how to delegate tasks in the workplace.

Sign up for our LinkedIn ® newsletter to receive career planning tips, resumé help and more. 

Benefits of delegation

Proper delegation makes everyone’s life easier. Here are some of the benefits :

1. Increased efficiency

Delegation can improve efficiency when:

  • It frees up your schedule so you can focus on big-picture tasks.
  • Team members can specialize in their roles and boost output.
  • Each person focuses on their expertise and improves overall quality.

2. Improved problem solving

Delegation isn’t just about lightening your load — it also helps foster problem-solving . Here’s how:

  • You stimulate your team’s ingenuity by allowing them to tackle new problems and challenges.
  • With each solved problem, employees gain confidence to tackle similar or more complex tasks in the future.
  • Autonomy fosters a problem-solving mindset in which team members take the initiative to find solutions rather than relying on guidance from their managers.
  • Delegated tasks allow employees to apply their skills in real-world situations and refine and apply their abilities in new and effective ways.

Improved motivation

Let’s unpack how delegation fuels motivation and ownership:

  • When you delegate tasks, you signal trust in your team’s abilities. This confidence can motivate employees to rise to the challenge and deliver their best.
  • Delegation allows team members to learn new skills and gain diverse experiences. This opportunity for personal and professional growth can motivate them to take on new tasks and develop a lifelong learning mindset.
  • Employees can derive satisfaction from a job well done, which in turn motivates them to tackle the next challenge.

Enhanced creativity

Delegation is also a catalyst for creativity and innovation. Here’s how:

  • Leaning on outside or additional perspectives can lead to creative solutions you may not have considered otherwise.
  • When you delegate tasks, you empower team members to approach them in their own way.
  • As team members successfully navigate tasks, their confidence in their creative abilities grows. This confidence can inspire them to bring more creative ideas.
  • Delegating routine tasks opens up time and mental space for you to focus on strategic creative thinking.

As for product innovation, delegation allows you to tap into a collective pool of talent and ideas — the perfect combination for creating something remarkable.

How to delegate well

Sure, delegating sounds great, but how do you do it? Here are five steps to becoming an efficient delegator.

1. Identify and assign the right people

Start with getting to know your team. Understand their skills, aptitudes and interests. Do they have a knack for detail? A creative flair? An uncanny ability to connect dots that others don’t see? Use this knowledge to assign tasks that are appropriate to their skill levels , foster their growth and keep them engaged.

Balance is key — overloading team members because they excel in a particular area could lead to burnout . Delegate only if they have the ability to take on new tasks.

Leadership courses can help you learn techniques to assess your team’s abilities, enhance your decision-making skills and improve your communication style, making assigning the right people to the right tasks much easier. 

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2. develop clear communication.

When you delegate a task, clarify what you expect , by when and why it’s essential.

Clear expectations are vital to keep the process or project on track. Set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals to provide a pathway to success. Also, ensure your team understands what needs to be done as well as the broader context — how will their tasks contribute to the company’s overall goals? This will ideally help align the end result with the overall vision.

If communication isn’t your natural forte, online communication courses can come in handy. Such courses can provide practical tips, including how to articulate your expectations, give feedback and navigate difficult conversations. They can also teach techniques for becoming more persuasive and tailoring your communication style to different individuals and situations.

Other key tips for communication:

  • Be timely and consistent
  • Provide regular feedback
  • Create checkpoints to ensure progress tracking

Open lines of communication invite questions and suggestions , allowing room for innovation.

3. Set realistic expectations

Again, SMART goals come into play here — consider the timeline for each task and the resources available. Also, consider external demands , holidays and other projects that must be juggled. Break down large tasks into manageable chunks, each with its own mini-deadline. Team members can experience the thrill of accomplishment as they tick off each part.

Likewise, a deadline that seems reasonable to you might not be feasible for them. You can’t always know what other deadlines they’re juggling. Involve them in setting goals and deadlines . This will give you a more realistic picture of everyone’s role and responsibility while increasing your team’s ownership and commitment to the tasks.

4. Use technology to support delegation

Numerous tools are available to help you keep track of who’s doing what and when it needs to be done. For instance, project management software and task tracking systems provide a comprehensive overview, changes in status, deadlines and team members’ progress. Such tools help keep everyone connected and eliminate the need for manual tracking or follow-ups.

Communication tools help you maintain clear and continuous interactions. Additionally, cloud storage platforms make sharing resources a breeze. Calendar apps are perfect for scheduling meetings, setting reminders and keeping everyone aligned on deadlines.

5. Create a follow-up plan

Following up isn’t about micromanaging — it’s about providing support, catching potential issues early and maintaining communication. Here’s how you can master it:

  • Schedule regular check-ins : These could be daily, weekly or at significant milestones. Discuss progress, address roadblocks and offer help if needed.
  • Provide constructive feedback : If the task is on track, recognize the effort. If there are areas of improvement, address them in a supportive manner.
  • Be flexible : Follow-ups might reveal that a task is more complex than initially thought or that the deadline was too optimistic. Be ready to adjust parameters as necessary.
  • Record progress made, issues encountered and solutions implemented : This provides a reference for future tasks and helps in performance reviews.

An effective follow-up process provides the guidance and support necessary for your team to deliver their best work.

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It’s about time! 5 effective time management strategies for working adult students

Ways to measure potential success of delegation .

It’s crucial to know whether your delegation strategy is working. Here are some tips to help you track and measure success:

  • Completion of tasks : If tasks are completed on time and meet standards, delegating was a success. 
  • Quality of work : Evaluating the output and measuring it against the initial goal provides insight into effectiveness.
  • Employee satisfaction : Regular feedback sessions or anonymous surveys help you gauge employee satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.
  • Productivity : If you find yourself with more time for making decisions, strategizing and innovating, it was a good call to delegate.
  • Improved employee skills and confidence : Your team should increasingly demonstrate the ability to take on more complex tasks.

Enhancing your career experience at University of Phoenix

Successful delegation begins with a well-prepared and informed team leader. In addition to learning from experience, such professionals can pick up tools and techniques to improve their leadership skills when they complete a  bachelor’s degree in business   or a  master’s degree in business administration . These programs focus on the importance of accountability, problem-solving and communication.

In addition to education, University of Phoenix offers a range of career resources to support individuals during their professional journey. These include: 

  • Career Services for Life ® : Available to UOPX students and graduates, this offering comprises complimentary career coaching, including guidance on how to build a personal brand and write a resumé.
  • Free career resources : Browse a range of downloadable guides and templates to help you optimize your LinkedIn ®  profile, get ready for a job interview and write a resumé and cover letter.
  • Career With Confidence™ newsletter : Get career insights every week via UOPX’s LinkedIn newsletter.

Portrait of Michael Feder


Michael Feder is a content marketing specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program and a New Jersey native!

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The Problem-Solving Process

Looking at the basic problem-solving process to help keep you on the right track.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

Problem-solving is an important part of planning and decision-making. The process has much in common with the decision-making process, and in the case of complex decisions, can form part of the process itself.

We face and solve problems every day, in a variety of guises and of differing complexity. Some, such as the resolution of a serious complaint, require a significant amount of time, thought and investigation. Others, such as a printer running out of paper, are so quickly resolved they barely register as a problem at all.

problem solving and delegation process

Despite the everyday occurrence of problems, many people lack confidence when it comes to solving them, and as a result may chose to stay with the status quo rather than tackle the issue. Broken down into steps, however, the problem-solving process is very simple. While there are many tools and techniques available to help us solve problems, the outline process remains the same.

The main stages of problem-solving are outlined below, though not all are required for every problem that needs to be solved.

problem solving and delegation process

1. Define the Problem

Clarify the problem before trying to solve it. A common mistake with problem-solving is to react to what the problem appears to be, rather than what it actually is. Write down a simple statement of the problem, and then underline the key words. Be certain there are no hidden assumptions in the key words you have underlined. One way of doing this is to use a synonym to replace the key words. For example, ‘We need to encourage higher productivity ’ might become ‘We need to promote superior output ’ which has a different meaning.

2. Analyze the Problem

Ask yourself, and others, the following questions.

  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • When is it occurring?
  • Why is it happening?

Be careful not to jump to ‘who is causing the problem?’. When stressed and faced with a problem it is all too easy to assign blame. This, however, can cause negative feeling and does not help to solve the problem. As an example, if an employee is underperforming, the root of the problem might lie in a number of areas, such as lack of training, workplace bullying or management style. To assign immediate blame to the employee would not therefore resolve the underlying issue.

Once the answers to the where, when and why have been determined, the following questions should also be asked:

  • Where can further information be found?
  • Is this information correct, up-to-date and unbiased?
  • What does this information mean in terms of the available options?

3. Generate Potential Solutions

When generating potential solutions it can be a good idea to have a mixture of ‘right brain’ and ‘left brain’ thinkers. In other words, some people who think laterally and some who think logically. This provides a balance in terms of generating the widest possible variety of solutions while also being realistic about what can be achieved. There are many tools and techniques which can help produce solutions, including thinking about the problem from a number of different perspectives, and brainstorming, where a team or individual write as many possibilities as they can think of to encourage lateral thinking and generate a broad range of potential solutions.

4. Select Best Solution

When selecting the best solution, consider:

  • Is this a long-term solution, or a ‘quick fix’?
  • Is the solution achievable in terms of available resources and time?
  • Are there any risks associated with the chosen solution?
  • Could the solution, in itself, lead to other problems?

This stage in particular demonstrates why problem-solving and decision-making are so closely related.

5. Take Action

In order to implement the chosen solution effectively, consider the following:

  • What will the situation look like when the problem is resolved?
  • What needs to be done to implement the solution? Are there systems or processes that need to be adjusted?
  • What will be the success indicators?
  • What are the timescales for the implementation? Does the scale of the problem/implementation require a project plan?
  • Who is responsible?

Once the answers to all the above questions are written down, they can form the basis of an action plan.

6. Monitor and Review

One of the most important factors in successful problem-solving is continual observation and feedback. Use the success indicators in the action plan to monitor progress on a regular basis. Is everything as expected? Is everything on schedule? Keep an eye on priorities and timelines to prevent them from slipping.

If the indicators are not being met, or if timescales are slipping, consider what can be done. Was the plan realistic? If so, are sufficient resources being made available? Are these resources targeting the correct part of the plan? Or does the plan need to be amended? Regular review and discussion of the action plan is important so small adjustments can be made on a regular basis to help keep everything on track.

Once all the indicators have been met and the problem has been resolved, consider what steps can now be taken to prevent this type of problem recurring? It may be that the chosen solution already prevents a recurrence, however if an interim or partial solution has been chosen it is important not to lose momentum.

Problems, by their very nature, will not always fit neatly into a structured problem-solving process. This process, therefore, is designed as a framework which can be adapted to individual needs and nature.

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What is delegative leadership: Definition, examples, pros & cons to know at work

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Consider a leader who's a bit like a magician (minus the cape and wand). They're not there to dictate every move, nor are they trying to be a backstage puppeteer. Instead, they're masters of delegation, passing the baton of responsibility to their team with trust, grace, and a dash of strategic finesse.

If you're reading this, you're probably part of the savvy crowd looking for ways to engage your employees effectively. Delegative leadership might just be your secret weapon in this endeavour. So, let’s dive deep into this subject in this article.

What is delegative leadership?

A leader conducting a meeting with employees

Delegative leadership, also known as laissez-faire leadership , is like the cool, laid-back cousin of the leadership family. In a nutshell, it's all about handing over the reins (or at least some of them) to your team members and letting them take the wheel.

In the world of delegative leadership, leaders trust their team's expertise and judgement. They're not micromanagers , nor are they breathing down everyone's necks. Instead, they provide guidance, set the overall direction, and then step back to let their team members shine. It's leadership with a sprinkle of "You got this!"

This style of leadership is fantastic for fostering creativity and innovation within a team. It allows team members to take ownership of their tasks, make decisions, and develop problem-solving skills. However, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Delegative leaders must be selective about when and how they delegate, ensuring the team is adequately equipped for the task.

So, think of delegative leadership as the leadership style that lets your team spread its wings while you keep a safety net ready. It's leadership that's all about balance and trust, making it a potent tool for boosting employee engagement .

What is Laissez-Faire leadership?

Leaders are planning their next move in giant chess

One term that often resonates in leadership style is “Laissez-Faire." This intriguing phrase, borrowed from French, translates to "let it be" or "leave it alone." In the context of leadership, Laissez-Faire Leadership style stands out as a distinctive approach that emphasizes hands-off, decentralized leadership.

Let's delve into the intricacies of this leadership philosophy and explore the reasons behind its unique nomenclature.

  • Roots in economic philosophy: Laissez-Faire leadership borrows its name from the economic doctrine of laissez-faire, advocating minimal government intervention in economic affairs.
  • Hands-off leadership style: At its core, Laissez-Faire Leadership involves leaders granting considerable autonomy to team members, allowing them to make decisions and execute tasks with minimal direct supervision.
  • Trust and empowerment: The philosophy is grounded in trust and empowerment, where leaders believe in the capabilities of their team members and encourage them to take ownership of their responsibilities.
  • Individual autonomy: In a Laissez-Faire Leadership setting, individual team members have the freedom to determine their methods, strategies, and timelines for achieving set goals.
  • Adaptability and flexibility: This leadership style is particularly suited to environments where adaptability and flexibility are paramount, as it allows teams to respond swiftly to challenges and changes.
  • Communication emphasis: Effective communication becomes pivotal in Laissez-Faire Leadership, as leaders need to ensure that the team is well-informed and aligned with the overall objectives.
  • Risk and responsibility: Team members assume greater responsibility for their actions and decisions, fostering a culture of accountability within the organization.
  • Innovation and creativity: Laissez-Faire Leadership encourages innovation and creativity, as team members are empowered to explore new ideas and solutions without constant oversight.

15 Delegative leadership characteristics you should know

A leader running towards the end goal

Let's break down the seven key characteristics of delegative leadership:

  • Empowers team members: Delegative leaders trust their team's abilities and empower them to make decisions independently. They recognize that team members have valuable insights and skills.
  • Hands-off approach: This management style is hands-off in the sense that leaders don't micromanage . They provide guidance, clarify objectives, and then step back, allowing team members to take control of their tasks.
  • Focuses on the big picture: Delegative leaders are more concerned with the overall goals and objectives of a project or task. They provide a vision and let their team figure out the details of how to achieve it.
  • Encourages creativity: By giving team members autonomy , delegative leadership encourages creativity and innovation. Team members are free to explore new solutions and approaches.
  • Selective delegation: Effective delegative leaders are discerning about what tasks to delegate. They consider each team member's strengths and weaknesses and match tasks accordingly to ensure success.
  • Maintains accountability: While they give autonomy, delegative leaders also maintain accountability . They set clear expectations and timelines, ensuring that team members understand their responsibilities.
  • Adapts to situations: Delegative leadership isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Leaders adapt their level of delegation based on the situation and the competence of their team members. They might be more hands-on with newer employees and more hands-off with experienced ones.
  • Trust in team competence: A delegative leader possesses unwavering trust in the competence and capabilities of their team. This foundational belief forms the basis for delegating decision-making authority.
  • Effective communication skills: Clear and concise communication is paramount for a delegative leader. Articulating expectations, guidelines, and goals ensures that team members are well-informed when making decisions.
  • Strategic vision: Delegative leaders possess a strategic vision that aligns with organizational objectives. This vision guides the delegation process, ensuring that tasks contribute to overarching goals.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Adaptability is a hallmark of a delegative leader. Recognizing that circumstances evolve, they remain flexible in their approach, allowing for adjustments to plans and strategies.
  • Balancing autonomy and accountability: A delegative leader excels in striking the delicate balance between granting autonomy and maintaining accountability. Team members are empowered to make decisions, yet they remain responsible for the outcomes.
  • Emotional intelligence: Understanding the individual strengths , challenges, and motivations of team members requires a high degree of empathy and emotional intelligence. Delegative leaders consider these factors when distributing responsibilities.
  • Conflict resolution skills: In a decentralized decision-making environment, conflicts may arise. A delegative leader is adept at resolving disputes, ensuring that disagreements do not impede progress or hinder team dynamics.
  • Patience and tolerance for ambiguity: Given the diverse nature of delegated tasks, a delegative leader exhibits patience and a tolerance for ambiguity. They understand that not every decision will follow a predetermined path, embracing the inherent variability of outcomes.

The benefits of using a delegative leadership style

Employees working together effectively

Delegative leadership isn't just about letting go of control. It brings a multitude of benefits to how employees work and how an organization performs. Let’s look at the top benefits it offers.

1) Boosts employee engagement

Delegative leaders empower their team members, making them feel valued and trusted. This increased autonomy and responsibility can significantly boost employee engagement , as individuals feel a greater sense of ownership over their work.

2) Fosters creativity and innovation

When team members are given the freedom to make their own decisions and explore new ideas, it fosters a culture of creativity and innovation . Delegative leadership encourages fresh perspectives and novel approaches to problem-solving.

3) Develops transformational leadership skills

Delegative leaders help team members grow by allowing them to take on more responsibility. This style serves as an excellent leadership development tool , as it helps team members build decision-making, problem-solving, and leadership skills.

4) Enhances problem-solving abilities

Team members under delegative leadership are encouraged to find solutions independently. This not only boosts their problem-solving abilities but also reduces the leader's burden of constantly providing solutions.

5) Improves time management and efficiency

Delegative leaders allocate tasks based on team members' strengths and expertise. This targeted delegation improves overall time management and efficiency as the right people are handling the right tasks.

6) Cultivates a culture of learning and adaptability

Delegative leadership fosters a culture of continuous learning and adaptability within the team. Team members, entrusted with decision-making responsibilities, are motivated to stay informed about industry trends and emerging best practices, promoting a dynamic and forward-thinking environment.

7) Strengthens team morale and satisfaction

Autonomy is granted when successful delegative leaders contribute to a positive work environment, boosting team morale and satisfaction . When individuals feel trusted and empowered, job satisfaction increases, leading to a more engaged and motivated workforce.

8) Encourages initiative and proactivity

Delegative leadership encourages team members to take initiative and be proactive in their roles. With the freedom to make decisions, individuals are more likely to seize opportunities, contribute ideas, and take ownership of their professional development.

9) Promotes work-life balance

By distributing decision-making authority, delegative leaders help prevent burnout and promote a healthier work-life balance among team members. This approach recognizes the importance of individual well-being and contributes to sustained productivity and job satisfaction.

10) Strengthens team collaboration

Delegative leadership, when executed effectively, enhances team collaboration. When individuals have the autonomy to make decisions within their areas of expertise, it fosters a collaborative spirit as team members can leverage their collective strengths to achieve common goals.

What are the qualities of a delegative leader?

Employees are having a meeting with a leader

In essence, a delegative leader is a blend of trust, support, and strategic thinking. They create an environment where team members can thrive, take ownership of their work, and contribute to the organization's success. Here are the top qualities that a delegative leader must have.

Delegative leaders have unwavering trust in their team members' abilities and judgment. They believe that their team can handle responsibilities effectively, which is essential for this leadership style to work.

Clear and open communication

Effective communication is crucial for delegative leaders. They must clearly articulate expectations, provide guidelines, and offer support while maintaining an open line of communication for questions and feedback.


Delegative team leaders are flexible and adaptable. They can adjust their level of involvement based on the situation's needs and their team members' competence.

Patience is a virtue for delegative leaders. They understand that team members may make mistakes, and they view these as opportunities for learning and growth rather than as failures.

Delegative leaders are empathetic and understanding. They consider the individual strengths and weaknesses of team members when delegating tasks, ensuring a fair and supportive approach.

Strategic thinking

These leaders possess strong strategic thinking skills. They focus on the bigger picture, aligning tasks with the organization's goals and objectives while allowing the team to determine the best methods for achieving them.


While delegative leaders grant autonomy, they remain available for guidance and support when needed. They strike a balance between giving space for independence and being accessible for assistance.


They have a deep commitment to empowering their team . They actively seek opportunities for team members and encourage employees to take on new challenges, learn, and grow in their roles.

"Lead by example" definition

Employer hitting the right targets

Leading by example timeless concept that encapsulates a leadership style where actions, conduct, and work ethic become the guiding beacons for those being led.

At its core, leading by example is a practice where leaders, irrespective of their position, model the behavior and standards they expect from their team members.

In the crucible of daily operations, leading by example manifests through the tangible demonstration of the values, ethics, and work habits that define an organization's culture. It involves a leader embodying the principles they advocate, becoming a living testament to the standards that should permeate the organizational fabric.

This form of leadership transcends mere verbal communication, relying instead on the powerful influence of actions to shape the attitudes and behaviors of others.

Crucially, leading by example isn't confined to displaying proficiency in tasks; it extends to showcasing integrity, resilience, and a commitment to continuous improvement. When a leader consistently exhibits these qualities, they establish a compelling precedent for their team members to emulate.

Furthermore, leading by example fosters a sense of camaraderie and unity within a team. When team members witness their leader actively engaging in the same challenges they face, a shared sense of purpose emerges.

Delegative leadership advantages and disadvantages

Even though it might sound all fruity, there are advantages and disadvantages of delegative leadership. It's important to take a look at them to understand if such a form of delegative leadership benefits or is right for your organization.

Advantages of delegative leadership:

  • Enhanced employee autonomy and engagement: Delegative leadership empowers team members by granting them autonomy . This increased sense of ownership and responsibility can lead to higher levels of employee engagement and motivation.
  • Fosters creativity and innovation: Team members under delegative leadership are encouraged to think independently and come up with creative solutions to problems. This can lead to a culture of innovation where new ideas are valued.
  • Leadership development: Delegative leaders provide opportunities for team members to take on more leadership responsibilities and make decisions. This can be a valuable leadership development tool , as it helps individuals build leadership skills and confidence.
  • Improved time management: Delegative leaders allocate tasks based on team members' strengths and expertise. This targeted delegation process can enhance overall time management and efficiency within the team.
  • Nurtures employee ownership and accountability: Delegative leadership fosters a culture where team members feel a deep sense of ownership and accountability for their tasks. This heightened responsibility contributes to a more committed and self-driven workforce.
  • Facilitates quick decision-making: By empowering team members to make decisions within their areas of expertise, delegative leadership facilitates quicker decision-making processes. This agility is particularly beneficial in fast-paced environments and situations requiring swift responses.
  • Promotes employee satisfaction and retention: The autonomy provided by delegative leaders contributes to higher levels of employee satisfaction and retention. When individuals feel trusted and valued, they are more likely to stay committed to the organization.
  • Strengthens adaptability to change: Delegative leadership encourages adaptability among team members. As they become accustomed to making decisions independently, they develop a resilience that positions the team to navigate change more effectively.
  • Encourages continuous improvement: Delegative leaders, by allowing team members to make decisions, foster an environment where continuous improvement is encouraged. The feedback loop from independent decision-making contributes to ongoing refinement and optimization.

Disadvantages of delegative leadership:

While it holds undeniable advantages, it is not without its share of challenges. Understanding the potential cons of delegative leadership style is crucial for leaders aiming to implement it effectively. Below are some cons associated with delegative leadership:

  • Potential for lack of direction: If not used judiciously, delegative or other leadership styles can lead to a lack of clear direction. Team members might struggle if they don't have sufficient guidance or if expectations are unclear.
  • Risk of mistakes: Delegating decision-making to team members means that mistakes can occur. While these mistakes can be valuable learning experiences , they can also result in setbacks if not managed effectively.
  • Uneven work distribution: In some cases, certain team members may end up with a disproportionate amount of work, while others have less to do. This can lead to resentment and reduced morale within the team.
  • Requires skilled team members: Delegative leadership is most effective when team members are competent and capable. It may not work well with inexperienced or unskilled team members who require more guidance and direction.
  • Potential for lack of cohesion: In the absence of clear guidance, delegative leadership may result in a lack of cohesion among team members. Without a unifying direction, the team may struggle to align their efforts, leading to fragmented outcomes.
  • Challenge in monitoring progress: Delegative leadership can pose challenges in monitoring individual and team progress. Without regular check-ins and feedback mechanisms, leaders may find it difficult to track performance and address issues in a timely manner.
  • Communication gaps: The decentralized nature of delegative leadership can contribute to communication gaps. Important information may not be effectively conveyed to all team members, leading to misunderstandings and potential conflicts.
  • Risk of decision-making overload: In situations where decision-making is heavily decentralized, there is a risk of overwhelming certain team members with excessive responsibilities. This can result in decision-making fatigue and diminish overall team effectiveness.
  • Dependency on leader's competence: The effectiveness of delegative leadership hinges on the leader's competence in decision-making and task allocation. If the leader lacks these skills, the team may struggle to function cohesively and achieve its goals.

4 Considerations before delegating any task

Employees are having a discussion with the leader

Before a leader delegates tasks, it's essential to consider several factors to ensure successful delegation and achieve the desired results. Here are four key considerations:

1) Task complexity and importance

Evaluate the task's complexity and importance. Is it a routine, straightforward task or requires specialized knowledge and skills? Tasks critical to the organization's success or particularly complex may require more oversight.

2) Team member competence

Assess the competence and capabilities of your team members. Consider their skills, experience, and familiarity with the task at hand. Delegating to someone who lacks the necessary expertise can lead to errors and frustration.

3) Clarity of objectives and instructions

Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the task's objectives and requirements. Prepare detailed instructions, including goals, deadlines, and any specific guidelines or expectations. Ambiguity in task instructions can lead to confusion and subpar results.

4) Level of autonomy

Determine the appropriate level of autonomy for the task. Some tasks may require close supervision, while others can be handled with minimal oversight. Consider factors like the team member's experience, the criticality of the task, and the potential impact of errors when deciding on the level of autonomy.

Delegative leadership examples in business

A set of hands carrying employees

Product development at a tech startup

Imagine a tech startup working on a groundbreaking product. The CEO, a delegative leader, sets a clear vision and goals for the product's development. They assemble a team of skilled engineers and designers, and instead of micromanaging the process , the CEO empowers the team to make decisions about the project's technical aspects, design elements, and timelines.

The team members have the freedom to explore innovative solutions and work collaboratively .

The CEO periodically checks in to offer support and ensure alignment with the company's overarching strategy. This approach fosters creativity and allows team members to take ownership of the project, ultimately resulting in a successful and innovative product launch.

Retail store management

In a retail setting, the store manager employs a delegative leadership style. The manager sets performance targets and customer service standards, providing a framework for the team to follow. However, the manager trusts the sales associates to manage their daily tasks, handle customer inquiries, and make decisions on the sales floor.

This approach allows sales associates to adapt to customer needs in real-time, such as offering personalized recommendations or resolving issues independently. The store manager remains available for guidance and support when needed but allows the team to take responsibility for day-to-day operations.

This fosters a sense of ownership among the staff and can lead to improved customer and employee satisfaction and sales performance.

Why is it important to know your leadership style?

By understanding your leadership style, you can build strong teams, engage employees, and achieve better results in your leadership role. Here’s what makes it so important.

1) Effective communication: Understanding your leadership style helps you communicate more effectively with your team . It allows you to convey your expectations, provide guidance, and motivate your team in a way that resonates with your natural leadership tendencies.

2) Adaptability: Awareness of your leadership style enables you to adapt to different situations and team dynamics. You can tailor your approach to fit the needs of specific projects, challenges, or individuals, increasing your effectiveness as a leader.

3) Conflict resolution: Recognizing your leadership style helps you navigate conflicts within your team. You can identify potential sources of conflict related to your style and proactively address them , promoting a more harmonious work environment .

4) Team building: Knowing your style aids in building diverse , complementary teams. You can seek team members with skills and styles that complement your own, creating a well-rounded and high-performing group.

5) Self-improvement: Self-awareness is a key component of personal and professional growth. Understanding your leadership style allows you to identify areas for improvement and develop your leadership skills continually.

6) Employee engagement: Aligning your leadership style with your team's preferences can boost employee engagement . When your leadership approach resonates with your team's values and expectations, they are more likely to be motivated and satisfied in their roles.

7) Results and productivity: Different situations may require different leadership styles for optimal results. Knowing your style enables you to choose the most appropriate approach to achieve your goals efficiently.

What is a delegative leadership example?

A leader congratulating employees in the workplace

Imagine you're a manager in a marketing department, and your team is responsible for launching a new advertising campaign for a product. Instead of dictating every detail of the campaign, you employ a delegative leadership approach.

You gather your team for a brainstorming session, where you outline the campaign's goals and objectives. You explain the target audience, budget constraints, and the overall theme you have in mind. Then, you step back and encourage your team to come up with creative ideas, campaign strategies, and individual responsibilities .

Your team members take ownership of different aspects of the campaign, such as social media marketing, content creation, and advertising placements.

You trust them to make informed decisions within the parameters you've set. Throughout the campaign, you provide support and guidance when needed but allow your team members to drive the project forward independently.

This delegative leadership approach empowers your team to use their expertise and creativity to execute the campaign successfully. It fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among team members, ultimately leading to a more engaged and motivated team and a well-executed advertising campaign.

Under what circumstances should the delegative style of leadership be used?

Leaders are flying straight up, wearing a cape

Delegative leadership, also known as laissez-faire leadership, is a managerial style that involves delegating decision-making responsibilities to subordinates. This leadership approach can be a potent tool when used judiciously.

Understanding the circumstances that warrant the application of delegative leadership is pivotal for leaders navigating the intricate landscape of organizational dynamics.

  • Experienced and competent team: Delegative leadership is most effective when leading a team of experienced and competent individuals who possess the skills and knowledge required for their tasks.
  • Promoting autonomy and ownership: When cultivating a culture that values autonomy and individual ownership of tasks, delegative leadership allows team members to take charge of their responsibilities.
  • Situational expertise: Utilize delegative leadership when team members have specialized knowledge or expertise relevant to the tasks at hand, allowing them to leverage their capabilities.
  • Time-sensitive projects: In scenarios where time is of the essence, delegative leadership can expedite decision-making processes by distributing responsibilities and empowering team members to act swiftly.
  • Enhancing creativity and innovation: For projects demanding creativity and innovation, delegative leadership can stimulate diverse perspectives and ideas by encouraging team members to think independently.
  • Developing leadership skills: When grooming future leaders, delegative leadership provides aspiring managers with opportunities to make decisions, solve problems, and learn from the outcomes.
  • Building trust and confidence: Employ delegative leadership to foster trust and confidence among team members, demonstrating that their capabilities are recognized and respected.
  • Employee engagement and motivation: Delegative leadership can boost employee engagement by granting individuals a sense of control over their work, fostering intrinsic motivation .
  • Clear and well-defined goals: This leadership style is effective when the objectives are clear and well-defined, enabling team members to align their efforts with organizational goals.
  • Crisis management: In times of crisis, delegative leadership empowers quick decision-making at lower levels, facilitating a more agile and responsive organizational approach.
  • Cross-functional collaboration: When collaborating across departments or disciplines, delegative leadership allows for decentralized decision-making, promoting a more inclusive and diversified approach.
  • Team feedback and input: Utilize delegative leadership when seeking input and feedback from team members, demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity and shared decision-making.
  • Balancing workloads: Delegative leadership is beneficial in distributing workloads efficiently, ensuring that tasks are allocated based on individual strengths and expertise.

How can you become a delegative leader?

Leaders are working effectively together

Becoming a delegative leader involves developing specific skills and adopting a leadership mindset that empowers your team while maintaining overall control and direction. Here are steps to become a delegative leader:

  • Self-assessment: Begin by understanding your natural leadership style and tendencies. Reflect on how you typically approach decision-making, task delegation, and team management. Recognizing your current style is the first step in making necessary adjustments.
  • Build trust: Delegative leadership relies heavily on trust. Work on building trust with your team members by consistently delivering on your promises, being transparent in your communication, and demonstrating your faith in their abilities.
  • Set clear expectations: When delegating tasks, ensure that you set clear expectations. Define the task's objectives, expected outcomes, deadlines, and any relevant guidelines or constraints. Clarity minimizes misunderstandings and helps team members understand what's expected.
  • Know your team: Understand the strengths, weaknesses, and skills of your team members. This knowledge allows you to delegate tasks effectively by matching them with the right individuals. It's essential to tailor your delegation approach to each team member's abilities.
  • Effective communication: Develop strong communication skills . Clearly explain your vision, provide context, and offer guidance when necessary. Maintain open lines of communication to address questions, concerns, and provide support.
  • Offer guidance, not micromanagement: Resist the urge to micromanage . Instead, focus on providing guidance and support when needed. Trust your team to carry out their responsibilities and avoid unnecessary interference.
  • Develop a monitoring system: Create a system for tracking progress without being intrusive. Regular check-ins, status updates, or milestone reviews can help you stay informed while giving your team room to operate independently.
  • Encourage feedback: Foster a culture of open feedback . Encourage team members to share their insights, concerns, and suggestions. This not only enhances communication but also empowers your team to take ownership of their roles.

How does being a delegative leader affect manager effectiveness and employee retention?

How does being a delegative leader affect manager effectiveness and employee retention?

Being a delegative leader can significantly impact both manager effectiveness and employee retention. Delegative leaders tend to be more effective in their roles as they can focus on strategic decision-making and high-priority tasks. They enhance their overall productivity and efficiency by entrusting routine responsibilities to their team members.

This approach also fosters creativity within the team, as team members are encouraged to think independently and come up with innovative solutions to challenges .

Moreover, delegative leadership contributes to leadership development within the organization. It allows team members to take on more responsibilities and make decisions, helping them grow as leaders. This, in turn, can lead to a more skilled and motivated workforce.

In terms of employee retention , delegative leadership often leads to increased engagement among team members. When employees are given autonomy and trust, they feel more valued and motivated in their roles.

They also develop a sense of ownership over their work, which can lead to higher job satisfaction and a desire to stay with the organization. A delegative leader can positively impact manager effectiveness and employee retention by creating a more engaged and empowered workforce .

In the dynamic realm of leadership, the delegative style emerges as a powerful force, offering a unique blend of trust, empowerment, and strategic finesse. As we journeyed through this exploration, we uncovered the essence of delegative leadership – a leadership approach that not only lightens the leader's load but also ignites the spark of creativity and innovation within teams.

By relinquishing control and fostering a culture of trust, delegative leaders empower their team members to take ownership, solve problems, and thrive.

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, knowing when to delegate and how to do it effectively is a leadership skill that can drive employee engagement, enhance productivity, and ultimately steer organizations toward success.

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash is a Product Marketer with 5+ years of experience. He loves story-telling in the simplest way possible and he is an avid reader, movie buff, and likes to travel new places to meet new people.

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Delegating: Authority Skills, Tasks and Effective Delegation

Delegation is an important management skill. 

These rules and techniques will provide you with valuable insights into effective delegation methods. They will also help you when your manager is delegating a new task or responsibility to you - delegation is a two-way process.

Why is Delegation a Critical Skill?

Good delegation saves time, develops people, grooms a successor, and motivates.  

On the other hand, poor delegation will cause you frustration, demotivates and confuses the other person, and fails to achieve the task or purpose itself. 

Delegation is a management skill that's worth improving.  

Here are some simple steps to follow if you want to get it right, with different levels of delegation freedom that you can offer. 

This delegation skills guide deals with the general principles and processes, which apply to individuals and teams , or to specially formed groups of people for individual projects (including 'virtual teams' ).

The Importance of Effective Delegation

  • Delegation is a very helpful aid for succession planning, personal development and seeking and encouraging promotion. It's how we grow in the job. Being appointed more tasks enables us to gain experience to take on higher responsibilities.
  • Delegation is vital for effective leadership.  See the Leadership Tips and Leadership Theories web pages for guidance and explanation of how delegation enables and increases leadership effectiveness.
  • Effective delegation is crucial for management and leadership succession. For the successor as well as the manager or leader too: the main task of a manager in a growing, thriving organisation is ultimately to develop a successor. This plays a crucial role in the succession and progression of an organisation.

A Two-Way Process

  • As someone appointing tasks, you must ensure this happens properly. 
  • Just as significantly, as the recipient of tasks you have the opportunity to 'manage upwards' and suggest improvements to the process - especially if your boss could use the help.
  • Managing the way you receive and agree to do delegated tasks is one of the central skills of 'managing upwards'

Deciding on which Tasks to Delegate - A Checklist

A simple rule is the SMART acronym,  or sometimes even  SMARTER. Before delegating tasks check whether they are:

This  delegation and review form  provides more detail on how to implement these in practice when delegating tasks. 

9 Steps of Successful Delegation

1. Define the task

  • Confirm in your mind that the task is suitable to be delegated. 
  • Does it meet the criteria for delegating?

2. Select the individual or team

  • What are your reasons for delegating to this person or team? 
  • What are they going to get out of it? 
  • What are you going to get out of it?

3. Assess ability and training needs

  • Is the other person or team of people capable of doing the task? 
  • Do they understand what needs to be done? If not, you can't delegate.

4. Explain the reasons

  • You must explain why the job or responsibility is being appointed to someone. Why is the task being delegated specifically to that person/this group of people? 
  • What are its importance and relevance? 
  • Where does it fit in the overall scheme of things?

5. State required results

  • What must be achieved? Clarify understanding by getting feedback from the other person. 
  • How will the task be measured? Make sure they know how you intend to decide that the job is being successfully done.

6. Consider the resources required

  • Discuss and agree on what is required to get the job done. 
  • Consider people, location, premises, equipment, money, materials, other related activities and services.

7. Agree on deadlines

  • When must the job be finished? Or if it is an ongoing duty, when are the review dates? 
  • When are the reports due? 
  • If the task is complex and has parts or stages, what are the priorities?

Important:  At this point you may need to confirm understanding with the other person of the previous points, getting ideas and interpretation. As well as showing you that the job can be done, this helps to reinforce commitment.  Methods of checking and controlling must be agreed with the other person. Failing to agree on this in advance will cause this monitoring to seem like interference or lack of trust.

8. Support and communicate

  • Think about who else on the team needs to know what's going on, and inform them. Do not leave the person to inform other managers of their new responsibility. 
  • If you have been delegated an important, potentially urgent task, inform your immediate supervisor that you will focus on this task for the time being.

9. Feedback on results

  • It is essential to let the person know how they are doing, and whether they have achieved their aims. 
  • If the aim has not been achieved, it is beneficial to review why things did not go to plan and deal with the problems together. 

10 Levels of Delegation

Delegation is more complex than telling someone else what to do.

There is a wide range of varying freedom that you can confer on the other person. Generally speaking, the more experienced and reliable the other person is, then the more freedom you can give.

The more critical the task, then the more cautious you need to be about extending a lot of freedom, especially if your job or reputation depends on getting a good result.

Aspects to Consider

  • It is important to ask the other person what level of authority they feel comfortable being given. Some people are confident; others less so. It is your responsibility to agree with them on what level of freedom is most appropriate so that the job is done effectively and with minimal unnecessary involvement from you. Involving the other person in agreeing on the level of delegated freedom for any particular responsibility is an essential part of the 'contract' that you make with them.
  • These levels of delegation are not an exhaustive list. They are nuanced and complex which is why it is important to take time to discuss and adapt the agreements that you make with people regarding these delegated tasks, responsibilities and freedoms according to the situation and each person.

These examples of different levels progressively offer, encourage and enable more delegated freedom. Level 1 is the lowest level of delegated freedom (basically none). Level 10 is the highest level typically (and rarely) found in organisations.

Important:  Each example statement below is simplified for clarity. In reality, you would choose a less abrupt style of language, depending on the person and the relationship. At the very least, a 'Please' and 'Thank you' would be included in the requests.

1. 'Wait to be told' or 'Do exactly what I say' or 'Follow these instructions precisely.'

These are all examples of instructions with no delegated freedom at all.

2. 'Look into this and tell me the situation. I'll decide.'

This is asking for investigation and analysis but no recommendation. The person delegating retains responsibility for assessing options prior to making the decision.

3. 'Look into this and tell me the situation. We'll decide together.'

This is has a subtle important difference compared to the above example. This level of delegation encourages and enables the analysis and decision to be a shared process, which can be very helpful in coaching and development.

4. 'Tell me the situation and what help you need from me in assessing and handling it. Then we'll decide.'

This opens the possibility of greater freedom for analysis and decision-making, subject to both people agreeing this is appropriate. Again, this level is helpful in growing and defining coaching and development relationships.

5. 'Give me your analysis of the situation (reasons, options, pros and cons) and recommendation. I'll let you know whether you can go ahead.'

Asks for analysis and recommendation, but you will check the thinking before deciding. Compared to the above examples the person doing the task is granted significantly more freedom.

6. 'Decide and let me know your decision, and wait for my go-ahead before proceeding.'

The other person is trusted to assess the situation and options. Additionally, they are deemed competent enough to decide and implement too, however, for reasons of task importance or perhaps externally changing factors, the boss maintains the control of timing. 

Importantly, this level of delegation can be frustrating for people if used too often or for too long. It is therefore important to explain the rationale behind having to wait for the "go-ahead".

7. 'Decide and let me know your decision, then go ahead unless I say not to.'

Now the other person begins to control the action. This subtle increase in responsibility saves time. The default is now positive rather than negative. 

This is a very liberating change in delegated freedom, and incidentally, one that can also be used very effectively when seeking responsibility from above or elsewhere in an organisation, especially one which is strangled by indecision and bureaucracy.

8. 'Decide and take action - let me know what you did and what happened.'

This delegation level, as with each increase up the scale, saves even more time. 

T his level also enables a degree of follow-up by the manager as to the effectiveness of the delegated responsibility, which is necessary when people are being managed from a greater distance, or more 'hands-off'. The level also allows and invites positive feedback by the manager, which is helpful in coaching and development of course.

9. 'Decide and take action. You do not need to check back with me.'

The most freedom that you can give to another person when you still need to retain responsibility for the activity. 

A high level of confidence is necessary, and you would normally assess the quality of the activity after the event according to overall results, potentially weeks or months later. 

Feedback and review remain helpful and important, although the relationship is more likely one of mentoring, rather than coaching per se.

10. 'Decide where action needs to be taken and manage the situation accordingly. It's your area of responsibility now.'

The most freedom that you can give to the other person. 

Often, this shift to a strategic responsibility occurs with a formal change of a person's job role. This gives the other person the responsibility for defining projects, tasks, analysis and decisions that are necessary for the management of a particular area of responsibility. 

This level of the delegation would most frequently be used when developing a successor, or as part of an intentional and agreed plan to devolve some of the job accountability in a formal sense.

The Role of 'Contracts'

Variously called 'contracts', 'psychological contracts' or 'emotional contracts', these expressions describe the process of agreeing with the other person what they should do and the expectations linked to the responsibility. 

This is based on the premise that forming a 'contract' by agreeing on the expectations and responsibilities that come with a task, increases accountability and commitment. 

It is essential to the so-called contracting process to discuss a range of topics such as time-scale, resources, budget, purpose and method of the task that is being delegated. 

Further, it is advisable to also include questions, issues or concerns in this discussion.

For further information see The Psychological Contract and Transactional Analysis Contracting - both are highly relevant to delegation.

Go to BusinessBalls homepage for more tips and materials relating to effective management, working, career and self-development. Many, including those below, are very relevant to delegation.

For some more helpful tools on delegation:

  • See the  Goal Planning Tips and Template  and the  Activity Management Template 
  • The  Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum  model provides extra guidance on delegating freedom to, and developing, a team
  • The  Tuckman 'Forming, Storming, Norming Performing' model  is particularly helpful when delegating to teams and individuals within teams.

For example processes and tools:

  • Goal Planning
  • Project Management

And help with managing people in the theories, meaning and application of:

  • Erikson's Life Stages - very powerful for self-awareness - and helps explain why have different responses to delegation
  • Kolb's learning cycle and learning styles - helps explain why we respond differently to different tasks and communications
  • Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - just as relevant today as ever
  • Kirkpatrick's learning and training evaluation model - simple, quick great for designing and measuring development effectiveness

Delegation Problems And Solutions

As a manager, you are familiar with the process of delegating and monitoring work. As project manager, you still need to delegate. However, the problems you will face may be quite different from those you have in your department, and the solutions should be different as well (see Figure 3-2).

Here are some of the common problems faced by project managers, and ideas for solving them:

• Problem: Emphasis is on assignments, not on people. As a department manager, you are accustomed to facing and overcoming a series of problems. The people working in your department are there on a permanent basis, meaning that their task assignments are usually fixed and well-defined. But as project manager, you face a temporary situation. Problems are unique to the project and nonrecurring in nature. Your team members will not have well-defined areas of responsibility unless you define them.

Solution: Pick the right people, not just the right number. You may find yourself thinking about projects in departmental terms, and this could be a mistake. For example, you know it takes seven people to manage your department's workload, so you conclude that you'll need a specific number of people for your project, the number becomes the emphasis. An alternative is to pick the people first and then match them to the phases and tasks, not by number, but by areas of responsibility.

Figure 3-2 Delegation problems and solutions.

• Problem: A highly structured work environment is imposed on the team. You may have learned from experience that a department works well when every task is clearly defined, even in advance of putting someone on the job. The procedures are well-understood, and the scope and limits of each employee's job are defined, often in writing. But when it comes to projects, you will want to encourage people to work more independently, perhaps even with much more freedom than you would ever allow in your department. Imposing an overly structured environment on your team members may stifle their freedom to act and impede the creativity and team spirit you want to encourage.

Solution: Encourage individual responsibility and effort. Team members respond best when they are allowed a degree of independence. Teamwork, ironically, often grows from allowing people to solve problems as individuals. They can work together when the restrictions of a well-defined department are removed. Give your team the freedom to tackle an area of responsibility and to see it through.

• Problem: The leader is too involved and too assertive. You might be what is called a hands-on manager, one who likes to roll up your sleeves and do your share of the work. That approach is appropriate in many departments, and it keeps you in touch with your permanent staff. But for a project, such an approach could impede progress. If you insist that the project be done your way, you are not allowing a team to form. That requires a less assertive approach.

Solution: Lead your team in a different way. Think of your project team differently from how you think of your department. Reduce your role to that of monitor. Watch the budget and the schedule, and ensure that your team comes through; be available to solve problems that your team wants you to solve. For some projects, you may need to work on the same level as your team because of deadline pressures, lack of people on your team, or unexpected problems and delays. But step in only if your team needs you, not because you assume that's always the best way to proceed.

• Problem: The team is isolated through lack ofdelegation. Project management is an excellent opportunity for sharpening your delegation skills. If you do not delegate effectively, your team will sense that it's being left out of the primary work of the project, and everyone will feel isolated. Just as a department manager has to keep staff informed of changes that affect them, you should plan to involve your project team in every phase of the job.

Solution: Coach the team, but allow it the freedom to act. It would be a disaster for a sports coach to take the place of a player because the job wasn't being done correctly. If you see one or more team members failing in their areas of responsibility, don't step in and do the work yourself. Work closely with them, not only to help them complete tasks, but to enable them to recognize the phase and project goals in operation. Help your team to succeed instead of allowing delegation to work in reverse.

• Problem: Team members let their egos rule. You face a difficult challenge when your team stops operating as a unit and becomes a group of individuals in conflict. When team members begin to compete with one another for credit, for work, or for the way to proceed, recognize that the problem is not theirs, it's yours. A team run on ego cannot function well. The intended goal is replaced with personal goals, and your project is in jeopardy of being lost in the shuffle.

Solution: Stress team and project goals over individual success. As team leader, you are responsible for the motives and goals of your team. You may have to remind your team members more than once that they are heading for a common goal and that individual credit or recognition has no place in your project team. You can get the point across by example: Don't present the job as your project, or its success or failure in terms of your career. It is a team effort, and you will be most likely to succeed when you demonstrate that belief through your own actions.

It has been important to address the personal element of your project before going on to discuss the budget and the schedule. The structure of your team will define these other requirements to a large degree, and your success as a project manager will depend on the people you select and the way in which they work together or are allowed to create on their own team. Chapter 4, shows how the budget fits into the organizational plan of your project.

Continue reading here: Budgeting Responsibility

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Readers' Questions

Why you should delegate tasks to team members reading answers?
Delegating tasks to team members is an effective way to ensure that projects are completed on time and to the best of the team’s ability. It also allows team members to use their individual strengths to contribute to the greater good, while freeing up time for the team leader to focus on important tasks. Additionally, it helps to foster a sense of ownership and accountability within the team, as each team member is responsible for their own tasks. Finally, delegating tasks ensures that everyone is given a chance to learn and grow, giving them the opportunity to develop their skills and abilities.


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