5 Keys to Effective Delegation​

If you look at all the great leaders, you will realize that one distinctive skill that they all have, is the ability to delegate effectively. Let’s face it, we have already established that in the previous post that time is finite, which is why productivity is such a focus these days. So, if you have the ability to assign tasks to your subordinates well, then you have essentially bought more “time” to carry out the more critical roles.
Most managers and leaders are overworked, because they are the "bottleneck" in the process. Not only may slow down the workflow to a halt, but it will also cause the subordinate to slack, thinking that they could afford to work slower since the boss is “busy”.
In this post, let’s explore a few methods to improve your delegation process. Do know that these are skill sets that you can train your assistants on as well. Not only would you have created backups and opportunities for them to step up when you are busy, but with the empowerment, you are also motivating them on a trust level.

#1. Manage Expectations

Often managers do not like to delegate, because they think they can do the job better. That is true, which is why they were promoted in the first place! However, at a manager role, he or she cannot afford to be stuck on the execution as often anymore.
Understand that while your subordinates are mastering how to execute the task, there will be a learning curve. Some coaching and supervision might be required, but as a manager, the expectations must be set right at the start, and a lot of it involves communication.
Which brings us to the next point.

#2. Communicate Deliverables Clearly

While the deliverables are clear in your head, you cannot assume it will be the same for your team. Chances are, they may have their own interpretations of the deliverables, and end up producing something different. I mean, have you seen a leader communicate a project's objectives to an entire department and a few would totally miss it and even do the opposite? In Neuro Linguistic Programming, one of the presuppositions (basic principles or law) is that
“Communication is the response you get”. That means that it is not the receiver’s responsibility to understand the message correct, but rather our own when we communicate it.
So when it comes to talking about the deliverables, be specific, timely and clear about them. Confirm the deadline, state the targets, rope in the people in charge, create a checklist for every milestone if you have to. When it comes to running projects and businesses, assumptions must always be left at the door.

#3. Confirm Understanding

Remember we talked about how it is our responsibility to ensure clear communication? Well, here’s where you can get feedback on your own communication skills - by getting your team to confirm their understanding of the deliverables, and your instructions.
However, it is crucial that you do not approach from an angle where it will make them look stupid because they need to repeat your instructions. Instead, encourage them to communicate their understanding from their own point of view, through paraphrasing, for example. This will help you ensure that they have internalized the message and are able to link to words and phrases that they understand.

#4. Empower Decisions

Earlier at the start of this post, we talked about how empowerment is critical in grooming leaders. When communicating your deliverables, it is an excellent time to let them know that they can exercise their critical thinking and decision making skills, by setting the parameters for them to operate in.
For example, you can inform them that for any expenditures below RM500, they can sign it off without prior confirmation with you. This will reduce distractions on your end as well. However, do get them to leave you a note via email so that you are kept in the loop.
Empowerment has a somewhat magical effect on teams, especially in motivation. When you empower someone, they feel the trust given, and it also reinforces any positive behaviors they had been practicing. You can even go further by saying something like, “Daniel, because I have seen your way of managing expenses over the past few projects, that is why I am trusting you to make these financial decisions.”
What a way to delegate and also give them a subconscious pat on the back, yes?

#5. Feedback Loops

Now, even though you have delegated the task, it doesn’t mean your job is over. You still have to monitor their progress, at least at the start, and ensure the everything is on track. The moment you notice any deviations from the objective, even the small ones, it is good to address it the soonest possible, before the issue aggravates over time.
Here's also where feedback loops come in. If you notice your team struggling to manage the deliverables, or juggle with the execution, be a resource to them. Give them valuable insights, and maybe even sit down with them to map out the process. Yes, it takes time to train, which is where patience and point #1 comes in (managing expectations). Trust me, they will appreciate you taking the time off to help them with their task and this too is a boost for morale.
Of course, the opposite needs to be addressed too! If you find that your staff is doing well, encourage their performance and accomplishment by either congratulating them (in public if they are comfortable with it), or sitting down and specifically let them know where they did well, which is to reinforce their motivation further.


In my years of training and consulting clients on Lean Six Sigma, which focuses on process improvements, I consistently notice that managers that can delegate well always outperform those that could not. They are often happier at their job and have great connections with their team. I hope by sharing these few tips on effective delegation, you, too, will reap those benefits.