Being able to delegate is important for every supervisor or manager. Managers need to be able to trust employees with responsibilities, while still ensuring that work is done well.
Strong delegation skills enable a manager to know which work to delegate and who to task with the responsibilities to successfully achieve organizational goals.
What is Delegation?
In a work setting, delegation typically means the transfer of responsibility for a task from a manager to a subordinate. The decision to delegate is usually made by the manager. However, sometimes an employee will volunteer to take on an expanded role.
Delegation can also happen when there is a less formal chain of authority. For example, a member of a peer group who has been designated as a leader of a team might delegate tasks to peers in the group.
What Are Delegation Skills?
Most of the time, good managers know how to accomplish each task required by the team. Better managers know that they shouldn’t try to complete every task for two reasons.
First, they know that it is very likely that each team member could do most of those tasks as well or better. And second, great managers understand that they shouldn’t overwhelm their own schedule by micromanaging.
Leaders that know how to manage will always delegate. They learn how to manage their own worries about whether or not their team members are dependable.
They know how to instruct their team members in a way that makes members feel empowered to accomplish the tasks required of them.
Delegation does not necessarily imply a transfer of complete responsibility. For instance, a manager may ask a subordinate to hire an administrative assistant, but the manager will still review the actions the subordinate takes to accomplish the task and provide guidance.
Types of Delegation Skills
When employers are hiring and promoting employees to management roles, they seek candidates with effective delegation skills. Here are some of the top skills and attributes employers look for.
Managers need to be able to communicate clearly with their employees when delegating. They have to explain why an employee has been assigned a task, what the task is, and what the expectations are. All of this requires clear, effective oral and written communication skills.
Listening is also an important communication skill to use when delegating. You need to listen to any questions or concerns of your employee, and make sure he or she understands your expectations.
- Properly Explaining Task Guidelines
- Defining Expectations
- Active Listening
- Oral Communication
- Written Communication
- Quickly Correcting Miscommunication
While delegating means giving an assignment to someone else, this does not mean you are not responsible. You have to check in with the employee, particularly at the end of the task, to make sure the goals are met.
Managers should provide feedback on what the employee did well, what they struggled with, and why. This will help the employee perform tasks even better the next time.
- Performance Evaluation
- Negative Reinforcement
- Positive Reinforcement
Even though someone else is doing the task, you still need to be effective at managing time. You need to give clear deadlines and checkpoints to the employee and hold that employee accountable. This requires that you plan out whom to delegate to well in advance. All of this requires organization and time management.
- Time Budgeting
- Creating Milestones
- Knowing When to Jump In and Assist
- Quality Assurance
Often when delegating you will have to make sure your employee or peer has the skills and abilities necessary to perform the task. This might require some training before delegating. A good manager knows how to effectively train his or her employees in a new task or skill.
Some tasks require a manager's insight and expertise.
Before delegating, managers need to assess tasks to determine if it makes sense to pass them along to a subordinate.
Another delegation task that managers take on is identifying outside resources—whether it's technology or other companies—that can help with day-to-day tasks.
- Identifying High Value Activities
- Assessing Employees' Strengths and Weaknesses
- Creating Incentives
- Talent Management
- Creating Job Descriptions
- Researching Available Training Tools
Often, managers do not delegate because they don’t trust their employees to do as good of a job as they would. A good manager trusts the skills of their employees. They lay out clear expectations, and provide feedback, but they do not micromanage while the employee works on the task. Trust is key to effective delegating.
- Facilitating Group Discussion
- Agreeing on Roles that Capitalize on Individual Strengths
- Building Consensus
- Eliciting Viewpoints from Reluctant Team Members
- Not Easily Offended
- Able to Detach from Their Own Strong Emotions
- Identify Systematic Problems
More Examples of Delegation Skills
- Human Resources
- Sensitivity to Ethnic and Religious Backgrounds
- Productivity Software
- Analyzing Problems Without Assigning Blame
- Defining Mutually Acceptable Roles
- Documenting Team Progress
- Analytical Skills
- Emotional Stability
- Recognizing and Rewarding Group Achievements
- Critical Thinking
- Problem Sensitivity
- Conflict Resolution
- Emotional Intelligence
- Team building
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
Add Skills to Your Resume Add skill words and phrases to your resume. In the description of your work history, you might want to use some of these keywords listed above.
Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give a specific example of a time when you demonstrated those skills at work.
Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview Mention your delegation abilities during an interview. For management job interviews, be sure you have at least one or two examples of a time you demonstrated your ability to delegate.