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Delegation as a Leadership Style

7 Tips About How to Delegate Tasks to Your Team

BY SUSAN M. HEATHFIELD   Updated on September 23, 2021

Your leadership style is situational. Your leadership style depends on the task, the team or individual's capabilities and knowledge, the time and tools available, the experience of the team members doing similar projects, and the results desired. In another article, the tell, sell, consult, join, and delegate leadership style model was reviewed. This model provides an excellent breakdown of when each style of leadership is likely to be most effective.

As a supervisor, manager, or team leader, you make daily decisions about the appropriate leadership style to employ in each work situation. You want to foster employee involvement and employee empowerment to enable your team members to contribute their best effort at work.

Tips: These tips for the successful delegation of authority will help you help your reporting staff members succeed when they are most empowered. And, when they succeed, you succeed. Never let yourself forget the intertwined nature of workplace success.

Leadership Style Tips

Whenever Possible, When Delegating Work, Give the Person a Whole Task to Do

If you can't give the employee a whole task, make sure that they understand the overall purpose of the project or task that the task you assign them is part of. If possible, connect them to the group that is managing or planning the work. Staff members contribute most effectively when they are aware of the big picture.

Employees Are More Effective Performers When They Feel Part of Something That Is Bigger Than Themselves

By giving the employee the whole and complete picture, you ensure that they feel as if they are a part of the whole initiative. This makes them feel more important in the scheme of things.

Note: People who know the goals, the expectations, and the outcomes you want to achieve make better decisions about their work because they have a context within which they are making decisions.

Make Sure the Staff Person Understands Exactly What You Want Them to Do

Ask questions, watch the work performed, or have the employee give you feedback to make sure that your instructions were understood. No one wants to do the wrong thing or watch their efforts and contribution to fail to make an impact. So, make sure that you and the employee share meaning on the objectives and desired outcomes from each task you delegate.

If You Have a Picture of What a Successful Outcome or Output Will Look Like, Share Your Picture With the Staff Person

You want to make the person right. You don't want to fool the person to whom you delegate authority for a task, into believing that any outcome will do unless you feel that way. Your employees would rather that you share exactly what you are looking for (if you have a picture in your mind) rather than making them guess. (You might also want to ask yourself, if you do this frequently with employees, whether your explicit picture is disempowering to the person performing the task.)

Identify the Key Points of the Project, or Dates When You Want Feedback About Progress

It is the critical path that provides you with the feedback you need without causing you to micromanage your direct report or team. You need assurance that the delegated task or project is on track.

Tips: You also need the opportunity to influence the project's direction and the team or individual's decisions. If you designate this critical path from the beginning, your employees are also less likely to feel micromanaged or as if you are watching over their shoulders each step of the way.

Identify the Measurements or the Outcome You Will Use to Determine That the Project Was Successfully Completed

If you identify how you will measure the outcomes and share this with the employees, they will be more likely to succeed. This will make performance development planning more measurable and less subjective, too. It's a win-win situation.

Determine, in Advance, How You Will Thank and Reward the Staff Person for Their Successful Completion of the Task or Project You Delegated

The recognition reinforces the employee's positive self-image, sense of accomplishment, and belief that he or she is a key contributor.

Cautions in Using Delegation as a Leadership Style

Delegation can be viewed as dumping by the employee who receives more work to do that is the same as what they are already doing. Employees complain when they share that they are extremely interested in more responsible work and taking on new challenges, and the manager just gives the employee more work to do most of the time.

Employees need delegated work to be more challenging. For example, attending meetings during which they helped have an impact on the direction of a developing product was challenging, exciting, and responsible.

Employees don't believe that the manager understands the difference though, so they spend most of their time doing more work of a mundane, repetitive nature. This workload, which causes employees to work long hours and weekends, interferes with their ability to take on more responsibility and their family obligations. It is resented over time.

Admittedly, any job has its share of mundane tasks that have to be completed. Some people don't like filing, and some don't like billing clients. Some people also don't like doing the wash or emptying the dishwasher. Therefore, the manager must carefully balance the delegation of more work with the delegation of work requiring more responsibility, authority, and challenge.

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