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Delegation of Authority: How to Delegate work as a Manager?

Andrew Langat
March 21, 2023
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"The manager who is not delegating is not managing." Robert Maddux.

Do you constantly find yourself doing everything- even simple administrative tasks that could otherwise be delegated to a team member?

If yes, you are not alone.

Consider the case of James, a startup founder who has grown this business from his bedroom and now has 100 clients in three cities and growing. He lives and breathes his business.

Despite the business growing tremendously and getting positive reviews, he still does everything assuming the roles of the manager, project manager, and company CEO, leaving him with little time for relaxation and reflection.

Increasingly, he has become irritable and impatient, and his health has started to fail. Probably, James will do well if they learn to delegate effectively.

Many managers, like James, struggle with delegating authority due to various factors ranging from lacking trust in their team and lack of leadership development training, envy, to simply having a big ego.

This should not be the case.

Delegation of authority is a vital skill to learn as it enhances teamwork and is an excellent mark of emotional intelligence in leadership. Moreover, it will save time and effort as you will find out that when you delegate administrative tasks such as data entry, you will have time to focus on more important matters.

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What is Delegation of Authority?

Delegation of authority is assigning authority to someone else — usually team members — to carry out specific tasks within certain limits on behalf of the delegator.

The three central elements involved in delegating authority are authority, accountability, and responsibility.

  • Authority refers to the power to make decisions, give orders, and take actions within a defined scope of responsibility. Through delegation of authority, the individual or team receiving it is given adequate authority on behalf of the delegator.
  • Accountability refers to reporting, explaining, and justifying the outcomes of decisions and actions. The person or team receiving the authority is accountable for the results of their decisions and actions and must report back to the delegator.
  • Responsibility: This refers to the obligation to perform a task. When delegated, the person or team receiving the authority has the ultimate responsibility of carrying out the delegated task and must use their judgment and skills to use resources efficiently.

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Why Should Managers Delegate?

For managers, delegating authority can help helpful in the following ways:

  • It Increases efficiency in administrative processes.
  • It frees up time for the manager to work on other important tasks.
  • Improve decision-making among employees as they get to act independently
  • Empower various team members with more responsibility as accountability arises.
  • Enable employees to gain valuable experience and develop their skills.
  • It is a great way of boosting employee motivation and morale
  • It can be an excellent avenue for coaching and mentoring high-potential employees.

To effectively delegate authority as a manager, do the following:

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How to Delegate Work as a Manager(Step-By-Step Guide)

1. Identify the task or responsibilities to be delegated

The first step is identifying the tasks that you can delegate. As a starter, delegate tasks such as data entry, customer-thankyou notes, scheduling meetings, new employee orientations, etc.

As a rule of thumb, always assign tasks that will make you focus on other important assignments.

Some of the questions to guide you when delegating authority include:

  • Is this a task that is sensitive and requires my input?
  • Do I have competent team members to who you can assign tasks?
  • Can I delegate authority completely?

2. Identify the team member(s) to delegate to

When identifying the team member to delegate to, consider the following traits:

  • Great time management skills. This will ensure timely completion.
  • Relevant Skills and Experience: only delegate to a team member with the appropriate skills, experience, and expertise. This ensures that the task assigned matches the core skills and competency.
  • Availability: Ensure the team member is available for all the tasks assigned. Do this by considering their given workload.
  • Interest and motivation: prioritize assigning to team members who show interest and motivation in the line of work. An example of a motivated employee is one who always takes the initiative.
  • Communication skills: Prioritise the need for strong communication skills. This valuable skill ensures that the tasks assigned are well understood and completed efficiently.

3. Define delegation & level of authority

It is vital to clearly define the level of authority so that how responsibility flows is clearly defined. This can be incorporated as part of your organization's management system.

This guides the superior-subordinate relationship, assists the manager in monitoring progress and eliminates the pitfalls of too much authority.

For example, you can assign a project manager the full authority to spend on the project up to $10,000; beyond that, they need to get consent from you.

4. Communicate the expectations

Clearly define what your expectations are. Always set SMART goals when delegating tasks.

Expectations can range from deadlines, quality, confidentiality, and other relevant information. As a manager, it is vital to prioritize effective communication to minimize the chances of disappointment.

5. Provide necessary support and resources

As a manager, offer the necessary support and resources to ensure success.

This may include training opportunities, access to information, adequate funding, and availability.

It is important to avoid making assumptions about skill levels and, whenever possible, provide training and guidance, as it will save you time when you finally offer complete authority.

6. Monitor progress

Regularly monitor the progress of the delegated task(not the delegated person) and provide feedback where necessary.

This is important at the initial stages of delegating authority when you want tasks to be completed successfully.

You can monitor progress through milestones or weekly reports.

7. Evaluate the delegation process and offer feedback

Once the delegated task is complete, take time and offer feedback. This way, you will learn if any adjustments are needed for future delegations.

When duties assigned are done well, dont's shy to offer praise. Where there is room for improvement, provide constructive feedback.

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What Are the Principles of the Delegation of Authority?

Several principles guide the effective delegation of authority; some of these principles include:

Principle of unity of command

Unity of Command is a fundamental management principle that states that an employee should receive orders and be accountable to only one authority.

The principle of Unity of Command is based on the idea that if employees receive conflicting orders from different persons, they are likely to become confused and uncertain about what is expected, leading to poor performance, mistakes, and inability to perform an assigned task efficiently.

This principle ensures clear communication between the manager and other employees, which helps avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.

Principle of authority and responsibility authority

The principles of delegation, authority, and responsibility work together to ensure that tasks are completed effectively and efficiently.

When managers delegate, they free up their time to focus on more strategic responsibilities while providing opportunities for others to develop their skills and take on more responsibility.

However, it is important to note that this does not delegate responsibility, as the delegator will be held responsible for results.

Effective delegation requires clear communication, appropriate oversight, and a willingness to provide support and guidance as needed.

Principle of the scalar principle

The scalar principle, also known as the scalar chain, is a principle of delegation that specifies how authority flows in an organization.

It states that a clear and unbroken chain of authority should extend from the highest management to the lowest levels.

According to this principle, to successfully delegate authority, each person in the organization should have a clearly defined position in the hierarchy, with specific authority and responsibility. Moreover, decisions should be made at the lowest possible level of the organization, with higher levels of management involved only when necessary.

The scalar principle is important for the effective delegation of authority because it ensures a clear line of communication and decision-making within the organization.

Principle of limitations of authority

The principle of limitations of authority stipulates that the delegate is not free to act however they wish.

One recommended way to enforce this principle is to write down the delegation's terms.

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When Should a Manager Not Delegate Authority?

As a manager, you should never exercise delegation of authority in the following circumstances:

1. When the job description explicitly states so

Certain jobs do have no room for delegation of authority. This might be due to the sensitivity of tasks assigned or part of the company policy.

For example, if you are heading security protocol for a company, this might not be delegated.

2. When mistakes can be costly

It is common for mistakes to take place when you delegate responsibility. However, When mistakes can be costly, it is advisable never to delegate.

Some costly mistakes include poor pricing, missing client deadlines, or lacking detailed research on your target market.

3. Praise, recognition, and discipline.

It is advisable never to delegate praise and recognition. This is important because praise directly from the Chief executive officer carries more weight than delegated praise.

The same applies to discipline; the team members need to know how authority flows and the consequences of lack of adherence.

4. When your team lacks sufficient capability

When your team lacks sufficient skills, it is advisable not to delegate authority until such a time when your team can handy assigned tasks efficiently.

For this reason, you need to hire competent employees for efficient delegation of authority.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Delegating Authority

Delegating authority is an important skill for effective leadership. However, there are common mistakes that people make when delegating authority that can hinder the success of a team or organization. Here are some mistakes to avoid when delegating authority:

1. Micromanaging

Delegating authority means trusting others to complete tasks and make decisions. Micromanaging can undermine that trust and stifle creativity and innovation. It can also lead to time wastage as you spend equal time on needless supervision.

2. Not providing clear instructions

Always provide clear instructions and expectations when delegating authority - preferably in writing. Without clear guidance, the person receiving the delegated authority may not know what is expected of them.

3. Not providing feedback

It's important to provide feedback on performance. Without feedback, team members may not know if they're on the right track or what improvements to make.

4. Not delegating enough

When you don't delegate enough, you don't realize the full benefits of delegation. As mentioned earlier, when a manager transfer responsibilities to competent staff, it saves time for other important tasks.

5. Not delegating to the right people

Delegating authority to the wrong people can lead to poor results and low employee motivation.

To avoid disappointments, only delegate tasks to team members with the necessary skills and experience to do the task efficiently.

6. Not following up

Delegating authority doesn't mean abandoning responsibility. Follow up with team members to ensure tasks are completed as expected and provide ongoing support and feedback.

Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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Supercharging your efficiency with delegation

The delegation process can be daunting, especially for leaders who are used to being in control. That's where an experienced Highrise coach can help you learn how to delegate authority effectively regardless of your management style for optimum performance.

Schedule a consultation to learn how to supercharge your efficiency and help you become a more effective manager.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.