Planning to Delegate as a Manager

Delegating tasks isn't just a matter of going down a list and distributing jobs to your employees as they come through your door. Successfully getting someone else to perform tasks for you requires a degree of planning. Before you can begin to delegate, you have to consider

  • which tasks can be delegated – When deciding which tasks can be delegated, consider how factors such as time and quality come into play. If you delegate a particular task, ensure the other person can complete the job on time. Also ask yourself if a high-quality result is important.
  • who you should delegate each task to – Start by figuring out which of your employees is capable of the task. Choose someone who has the necessary skills or who is capable of learning them quickly. You also want someone who is interested in the task, or at least willing to take it on. And here again, time is a major factor. The person you choose must be able to free up enough time to do the job.
  • what information you need to provide – The amount of information you need to provide when delegating the task will vary based on the nature of the task and the individual to whom you are delegating. Three important types of information must be included: what needs to be done and why, the results you expect, and the deadline for completion.

The majority of tasks that managers perform can be delegated, so it's often easier to consider the three types of tasks you shouldn't delegate:

  • critical tasks, which are tasks that you and your superiors consider vital
  • management-specific tasks such as personnel and pay matters, including hiring, disciplining, evaluating, promoting, and terminating employees, and
  • tasks involving sensitive or confidential information

Choosing the person to delegate to

There are some factors to consider for choosing the right person:

  • skills – To get the best results, you must choose someone who either has the necessary skills and experience to get the job done or who is capable of learning the necessary skills in time to complete the task.
  • motivation – You'll get better results if you delegate to someone who is motivated to complete the task, either because the person wants to help or because of an interest in the job itself.
  • workload – To achieve the best results, choose someone whose workload is easily managed – perhaps someone who has just wrapped up a project and has time available. Even the most skilled and motivated people will be unable to complete delegated tasks if their workloads won't allow it. And, in addition to failure to complete the task, it can lead to loss of morale.

Ideally you should find someone who measures up well against each factor. But it can be difficult to find a person like that in real life situations, and so your choice will also depend on the context. If you have a non-critical task that doesn't require a high degree of quality, you may decide to take a chance on whoever has time available, regardless of that person's motivation, experience, or ability to learn. A person's current workload is usually the dealbreaker. No matter how interested and motivated people are, if they have no time available, there is little point in delegating to them.

Once you've decided what the job is and who can do it, you can go on to consider which of the candidates you'd prefer to delegate the task to. You want someone you can rely on, particularly for important tasks. You also want to consider who would benefit the most from being chosen. Perhaps the task can present useful development opportunities for someone.

Deciding on the information needed

You always need to provide enough information for the individual to successfully complete the job to your satisfaction. Although different tasks require different information, there's certain information you should always include as a rule:

  • the nature of the tasks, in the form of a brief overview of what needs to be done and why
  • the results you expect and standards the work must meet, and
  • any constraints such as limits on authority and resources, as well as the milestones and deadlines by which tasks must be completed

While there are many other kinds of information you may include, keep it specific to the task at hand. To ensure you've identified all the relevant information, ask yourself if the person has everything needed to get the job done on time and to your satisfaction.

Planning is a vital step in ensuring your delegation goes smoothly and you achieve the desired results in terms of both the successful completion of the work and the development opportunities the delegation offers for your staff. Planning to delegate involves considering which tasks are appropriate to delegate and which must remain your own. You must also determine the right person to delegate to. Once you know the task and the person to delegate it to, you can consider the third factor, which is how much information you need to provide to get positive results for you and your staff.