Delegation is one of the ways you can assign work to your team members. You delegate when you describe a project or task to one of your team members, give them the objective, and make sure that they have the resources they need.
Then you send them off to do the job. Mostly, you leave them alone unless they ask for help. That’s effective when you do it with the right people and situations. But it can be dangerous when you don’t.
When Can You Delegate?
Here are some common situations where delegation will and won’t be a good choice.
Ruminate on Rusty. He’s young and he’s energetic and he just got hired by your company. Rusty is revved up and raring to go. You can’t delegate to Rusty. He needs training, coaching, and close supervision until he’s mastered the work.
Ponder Paula. Paula’s been around for a while. In fact, she’s burned out. It’s hard for her to muster the energy to pay attention to details. Extra effort is beyond her right now. You can’t delegate to Paula either, at least not now. Paula needs some gentle coaching, support, and supervision to help her do the job.
Consider Carl. Bad attitude comes off him like steam. About the only thing you can count on Carl for is to poison the atmosphere. Delegating to Carl is a super-bad idea. You can’t trust him to do what he’s supposed to do. So you have to check on him frequently.
Think about Tina. She’s mastered all the things she needs to do in her job. She’s always pitching in to get her own job done and to help others. You can delegate work to Tina. She knows the job. And you can trust her to work on her own with energy.
Doing Delegation Right
Delegate well and everybody wins. Your team members win because they get to demonstrate their mastery and autonomy. The team wins because the work gets done. And you win because delegation frees you up for other things.
But if you delegate work to team members who can’t (Rusty or Paula) or won’t (Carl) do the job on their own you’re asking for trouble. They can cause the team to fail and damage morale. Not to mention that you have to spend time fixing things later. Nobody wins.
Now for Delegation in Real Life
Rusty, Paula, Carl, and Tina are extreme examples. Most of the people on your team will be like the next two examples.
Think about Larry. He’s a good worker who does his share and pitches in to help others. He’s mastered some of the tasks for his job, but he still needs guidance with others.
Lauren and Larry are a lot alike except for one thing. Lauren knows the tasks, but she lacks confidence in her own abilities on some of them.
You can delegate some jobs to Lauren and Larry. Choose the ones where they show both the ability and the willingness to get the job done.
Help Larry master the tasks that he’s still learning. Coach Lauren so she develops her self-confidence on things she can do well.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Delegation isn’t for everyone or every situation. Use it only with team members who have the ability and willingness to get the job done without much attention from you.
More From Wally Bock
In addition to writing the Three Star Leadership blog, Wally Bock is an author, ghostwriter, writing coach and book doctor. In his past lives he has run a small publishing company, been a popular keynote speaker to audiences around the world, and served as a U. S. Marine. He loves good beer, good friends, and good stories.