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How and When to Delegate

By: Lisa Koning - Updated: 6 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
How And When To Delegate

Delegation is a necessary skill of an effective manager. Sometimes it may seem easier to do it ourselves; after all we know exactly what needs to be done and it can be time consuming telling someone else what to do.

But a good manager understands that delegation frees up a manager’s time, allowing them the capacity to concentration on the matters that really require their attention.

So, if as managers, we’re not to do everything ourselves, does that mean that we simply throw the tasks at other people? No, delegation is about understanding the requirements of the work, finding the right person to do it, communicating the job to the person or persons involved, and providing them with the support that they need.

Understanding the Requirements of the Job

This doesn’t mean that you need to go into the tasks in detail, but you will need to understand the technical skills that the person will need to do the job, and any necessary information they might need.

Think about other softer skills the person might need – such as negotiation or communications skills. Will the person need to use their initiative to solve problems? You’ll also need to understand any time or budget constraints that may impact your decision.

Find the Right Person

The right person isn’t necessarily the person who meets exactly the requirements that you came up with for the job. An effective manager gives their staff opportunities to learn new skills and challenge their abilities, so it might be that you choose someone because they have appropriate skills that they can build upon. If you want staff to learn and acquire new skills then sometimes it is necessary to stretch them above their current abilities.

The more that you understand your staff, this includes their skills, abilities and their aspirations, the better you will be able to match work to staff.

As is often the case, we may have the right person but they might not be available. Part of the role of manager is juggling the work between the available capacity and the work demand. Sometimes it means that a less than perfect candidate needs to do the work. In this situation it is important to decide upfront how you will manage this situation and ensure that they will have the necessary support to do the work satisfactorily.

There may also be alternatives of getting people training, or potentially spreading the work between a number of people.


People need to understand what is required of them. Be specific without telling them exactly what needs to be done. Allow them space to use their initiative and make decisions, within safe boundaries. Remember the task may be new to them, and while the work may seem obvious to you, explain what needs to be done and allow them the opportunity to ask questions.

The better you communicate what needs to be done the better chance that they will get it right first time. This will also avoid re-work due to misunderstandings as well as the person coming back at a later date asking basic questions.


Just because you have delegated the job to someone else, doesn’t mean that you no longer have responsibility. Agree with the person how you will provide them support and establish a process whereby you can periodically check that the work is progressing satisfactorily.

Sometimes it can be tempting to micro manage, particularly if you know exactly what and how it should be done. But remember that delegation is also about delegating some responsibility and giving your staff space to make decisions will help them develop.

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