What is effective delegation?

DSM Digital School of Marketing - effective delegation

Effective delegation thrusts authority down vertically through the ranks of an organisation. It must not be confused with participative decision making, in which there is a sharing of authority. Delegation allows employees to make their own decisions.

Delegation is the assignment of authority to another person in order to carry out specific activities while retaining the ultimate accountability for the outcome of the activities.

Proper delegation is not abdication and requires the following:

  • Clarifying the exact job to be done
  • Setting the range of the employee’s discretion
  • Defining the expected level of performance
  • Setting the timeframe for the task to be completed
  • Allowing employees to participate
  • Establishing feedback controls

Managers who delegate correctly do not abdicate their responsibilities

Instead, they increase their effectiveness. However, if a manager merely dumps tasks on an employee, without explaining the job to be done, the employee’s discretionary range, the expected performance and the timeframe, then that person would be abdicating responsibility as well as inviting disaster.

When delegating, managers should keep in mind two important points:

  1. Employees will make mistakes
  2. Adequate controls will ensure that the costs of these mistakes are not more than the value of the learning

It is not viable for the manager to handle all of the work of the department directly. In order to meet the organisation’s goals, focus on objectives and ensure that all work is accomplished, managers must assign authority.

Authority is the rightful power of a manager to direct team members act within the scope of the manager’s position. By extension, this power – or a part thereof – is delegated and used in the name of the manager.

Delegation is the downward handover of formal authority

This happens from superior to employee. The employee is empowered to act on behalf of the manager, while the manager is still accountable for the outcome. Delegation of authority is a person-to-person relationship which requires trust, commitment and contracting between the manager and the employee.

The manager assists in improving employees in order to strengthen the organisation. He or she relinquishes the authority to make decisions that are best made by employees. This means that the manager permits employees the freedom to make mistakes and then to learn from them. He or

she does not supervise employees’ decision-making but gives them the opportunity to develop their own skills.

What the manager lets employees know

The manager lets employees know that he or she is willing to assist, but not wanting to do their jobs for them. The manager is not persuaded that the best way for employees to learn is by telling them how to solve a problem. This results in those employees growing to be dependent on the manager.

The manager gives employees the chance to achieve and be credited for it. An organisation’s most valuable resource is its people. Through empowering employees who perform delegated jobs with the authority to manage those jobs, managers free themselves to manage more effectively. Successfully training future managers means delegating authority gives employees the concrete skills, experience and the resulting confidence to develop themselves.

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