Caught between the pressure of urgent and important work demands, delegating is often one leadership approach to get cut. Yet one of the top five reasons high potential employees leave their current employer is for an exciting career development opportunity. What if effectively delegating is the very thing executive leaders need to master now more than ever to win in the marketplace?
Effective executive leadership involves effective delegation. Executive leaders that maximize their purpose approach delegating with intention and a win-win mindset. Carefully considering the task, situation, employee capacity and capability, communication, and leadership support are essential to delegating, so that sticks.
What Delegation Is and Is Not
One of the more complex and essential things for a leader to do is go from doing to leading. Giving up authority and responsibility can seem counterintuitive to leadership.
Effectively delegating increases work-related discretion and the authority for an employee to make decisions without consulting with you for pre-approval.
Effective delegation is a dynamic two-way process that involves the transfer of responsibility and authority from the leader to a willing delegate.
Effective delegation is not assigning a task or decision to an unwilling employee. Giving a direct report the responsibility without the authority does not work. Not having the authority to act results in wasted time and frustration for both you and the employee.
Why Delegating is Important
Research has found that effective delegation improves job satisfaction, responsibility, performance, intrinsic motivation, confidence, and career development. It is thought that delegation signals trust and support from the leader to the delegate, resulting in increased follower effort and performance. Additionally, effective delegation improves the employee perception of the leader's performance.
If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make an impact, learn to delegate. – John C. Maxwell
Organizational Culture and Relationships Matter
Research has demonstrated that your relationship quality with the employee and the organization's culture moderate the effectiveness of delegating. High levels of trust in high-quality leader-follower relationships enhance the positive outcomes of delegating. Likewise, if your relationship is weak with the delegate, the outcome is at risk.
Hierarchical organization structures typically found in high-power distance cultures limit the positive effects of delegation on performance. High power distance relates to the lack of balance in power between the leader and follower. In traditional high power distance national cultures found in countries such as China or Japan, the leader has a much higher degree of power than the employee.
5 Steps to Delegating Effectively
Effective delegation can be challenging. Spending a little time and effort upfront to consider the task, situation, employee, communication, and leadership support is crucial to delegate effectively. Use the following five-step checklist to improve your delegating skills.
Step 1. Consider and decide if you should delegate. Delegating during crises with critical benefits or harm to the organization is not appropriate. Determine if delegating will help you use your time better or potentially develop others for succession or similar future work. Circumstances with tight timelines with severe or long-term consequences do not allow for mistakes or coaching for development.
Step 2. Decide to whom you will delegate the decision or task. Consider if they have the experience, knowledge, skills, tools, resources, and willingness needed to succeed. Delegating to an employee that is overloaded can lead to costly mistakes. When using delegation for development, consider how to best support the delegate's development.
Step 3. Clearly communicate what you are delegating, timelines, outcome expectations, and why you are delegating. Write it down and discuss it with the delegate to make sure they accept. Clarify if you will keep some of the elements of the task or decision yourself. Explain the reasons for why you are delegating and why you chose them. Discuss the tools and resources available and as appropriate development coaching.
Step 4. Communicate with others. Decide what critical relationships are involved in this work and make sure they know what and to whom you have delegated the task or decision.
Step 5. Provide feedback, incentives, and consequences. Monitor performance and provide corrective and appreciative input along the way, so the delegate knows how they are doing. Then evaluate their performance and let them know how they did. Doing a task for the first time and not knowing how you are doing is frustrating.
Key Summary Points:
Executive leaders that maximize their purpose approach delegating with intention and a win-win mindset.
Giving a direct report the responsibility without the authority does not work.
Effective delegation improves job satisfaction, responsibility, performance, intrinsic motivation, confidence, and career development.
High levels of trust in high-quality leader-follower relationships enhance the positive outcomes of delegating.
Hierarchical organization structures typically found in high-power distance cultures limit the positive effects of delegation on performance.
Spending a little time and effort upfront to consider the task, situation, employee, communication, and leadership support is crucial to delegate effectively.
If you want to architect a positive culture or need an executive coach, we're ready to partner with you to craft a solution specific to your organization's context and challenges. Getting started is as easy as visiting www.organizationaltalent.com or contacting us via email email@example.com. Organizational Talent Consulting utilizes proven, simple, and transformational personal and organizational development solutions to help our clients learn, change, and apply tools in ways that benefit their unique needs and corporate culture.
Chevrier, S., & Viegas-Pires, M. (2013). Delegating effectively across cultures. Journal of World Business: JWB, 48(3), 431-439. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2012.07.026
Drescher, G. (2017). Delegation outcomes: Perceptions of leaders and followers’ satisfaction. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 32(1), 2-15.
Joiner, T. A., & Leveson, L. (2015). Effective delegation among hong kong Chinese male managers: The mediating effects of LMX. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 36(6), 728-743.
Yukl, G. and Fu, P. (1999), “Determinants of delegation and consultation by managers”, Journal of Organizational Behaviour, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 219-232.