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Delegation: what successful leaders learn to master…


Following on from my last post, and stemming from the help I give my executive coaching and management/leadership coaching clients, it’s clear that some leaders have difficulty delegating tasks.

Moving up the ranks and gaining more responsibility are the aims of most managers when climbing the career ladder; however, a proportion find it a real challenge to effectively manage their staff as well as coping with their burgeoning workload. Recognising a team’s abilities and developing staff’s potential can not only relieve backlogs and increase efficiency, but also instil team loyalty and boost job satisfaction.

How easy is it to delegate?   


Delegation is a delicate issue. If a manager exercises too much control when delegating tasks, staff can feel suffocated. Initiative is subsequently stifled when managers’ checks appear numerous and over-critical.

Too little guidance and staff are left to fend for themselves. Risk of failure increases, which can be demoralising, and it’s a struggle to appoint accountability when the manager abdicates from any supervision. No team building; instead, the team falls apart and becomes more disjointed.

A balance between the two should be the aim, so that staff feel supported when carrying out a task and so they have the space to be resourceful and inventive.

Fail to plan, plan to fail…

Planning delegation allows you to match the task with the most appropriate member(s) of the team. It helps you ascertain if further training or development is needed to complete the work, and breaking down the process also means you can apply safeguards.

Before you delegate, consider:

  • Why do I think this job can be delegated?
  • Who do I plan to delegate this task to, and why – what skills do they already hold, and are there any areas in which they need extra training or support?
  • Are they able, with their current workload, to take this extra task on? When is the completion date?
  • What controls do I need to put in place, and to what standard do I expect the work to be done?

steps 2Here are my steps towards effective delegation:

1. Involve everyone. If the whole team is included it’s far more likely that the work will be completed on time and to the required standard. Allowing each team member an element of control over the task invites commitment and tenacity as they ‘buy in’ to the project. Team building success!

2. Make clear the chain of command. Not only will this make team members feel supported if they have an issue while carrying out the task, it also affords a level of accountability for the part they play and can help them learn to lead in their own right.

3. Monitor the task appropriately. Some projects need more monitoring than others. It’s a good idea, once you’ve matched elements of the task to individual team member’s abilities, that you discuss the checking and feedback of their work. To help effective team building and development through delegation, consider offering an opportunity to team members that stretches their capability, but not to the extent that it risks overwhelming them.

4. Invite contributions and ideas. Whilst monitoring is fundamental, once a task is delegated, allow staff to work on their own initiative and self-manage. Negotiate the frequency of reporting back and the objectives of the task.

5. Give regular feedback. Guide rather than dictate; supporting, and passing on experience helps the delegation process, and ultimately, the development of the team. Regular review and feedback helps you afford the freedom for initiative, as any errors would be picked up and dealt with quickly before they can escalate. If you’re unused to coaching others, contact me for management coaching help.

6. Accept that mistakes may be made. Apportioning blame dulls the confidence of the team and stunts development. View all errors as learning opportunities for both parties and remember why you felt the team member(s) could complete the project at the outset. If staff can admit to a mistake and understand where they went wrong, there’s every chance they’re able to rectify the error and prevent it occurring again, which boosts confidence in subsequent delegations.

Once these steps are put into practice, delegation becomes much easier. Over time, more complex tasks can be delegated using this same method and safeguards, which will help your team grow in strength.

The time reclaimed through delegation can also be put to better use by managers for their own development, for further leadership coaching and for training on tasks/responsibilities that can’t be delegated – a win/win situation for all.

If you’d like help implementing delegation or more details on leadership coaching, contact me on 01302 220221, or via angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.


1 Comment


    1. To Be a Better Leader, Delegate These 2 Functions BY JOHN WARRILLOW | oldienewbies

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