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Preparing to Delegate

A self-empowered manager knows that delegation is a complex skill that requires preparation and good communication skills. To help you improve your delegation skills, answer the following questions before each delegation:

  1. What is the goal or objective of delegating this task or1 responsibility?

    Answering this question identifies the delegation’s expected outcome. This will help you to delegate a responsibility for outcome rather than just a meaningless task.

    Example: Marvin could have defined his delegation goal as redesigning the production reports to produce information that could be used without so much additional analysis.

    Practice: Define the delegation goal for the problem that was given to Ellen in the earlier example.

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  2. Whom will I select for this assignment?

    This question requires you to consider your candidates. Who is the most qualified? Who would most like to do this? Who needs the growth experience? Who has the time? Who could handle this with some training?

    Example: Marvin might have selected Tony because he is familiar with production, likes working with numbers, and has a good relationship with the production team.

    Practice: What factors might Marvin have considered in choosing Ellen for the other delegation?

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  3. What kind of authority or power is needed and how much is required?

    This answer is important if the person is to be empowered enough to be successful. Assigning a responsibility without giving appropriate power will almost always guarantee failure.

    Example: Marvin would need to give Tony authority to ask the production people for different data, to experiment with different formats, and possibly to call upon people in other departments such as accounting, quality assurance, and data processing for assistance.

    Practice: What authority would Ellen need for her assignment?

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  4. Who else needs to know about this delegation?

    Your employee has authority only when others know that you have given this power. Think about all who may be involved in carrying out this delegation and inform each one about it.

    Example: Marvin might want Tony to discuss new format designs with him before implementing them. He might want a weekly progess report.

    Practice: What controls or feedback would Marvin want in Ellen’s case?

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  5. What type of control or feedback will I need?

    A major concern about delegating is the loss of control, so you need to figure out how you can reduce this stress factor. What kind of information will you want about progress and how often? How will you meet your need for control so you avoid looking over your employee’s shoulder (which communicates distrust)?

    Example: To assure Tony’s success, Marvin would need to inform the production crew, accounting, quality assurance, and data processing that Tony has authority to request their help with the project.

    Practice: Who would need to know about Ellen’s assignment and the extent of her authority?

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  6. What is a reasonable time limit for completion?

    You may want to involve the employee in answering this question. A clear deadline helps to focus efforts and increases the probability of success. The time limit needs to be realistic for both your needs and your employee’s.

    Example: For Tony’s assignment, a reasonable time limit might be several months or longer to allow for experimentation with different reporting formats and for developing the computer programming. It could take longer, depending on the amount of data needed and the complexity of the redesign challenge.

    Practice: What would be a reasonable time limit for Ellen’s assignment of resolving the conflict between the shop supervisors and the support staff?

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  7. When and how will we evaluate the performance?

    Planning for evaluation ensures you will identify the measures of success and arrange a system for providing the information needed for evaluation. The employee deserves positive reinforcement of a good performance and coaching assistance with any problems.

    Example: Marvin and Tony will need to evaluate how well the new reporting system provides the needed data. They also will want to evaluate how Tony went about resolving the problem. The evaluation might include asking others who were involved to evaluate Tony’s role.

    Practice: What aspects of Ellen’s performance will need to be evaluated and how might this be done?

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    Planning for delegation is essential to ensure the assignment will be completed successfully. Delegation is an important opportunity to strengthen your relationship with employees and to empower them so that everyone benefits.


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