My colleague Adrian Newbery and I have spent many hours discussing the subject of delegation and how we both made the same mistakes when we were managers in our respective organisations. For instance, we both had go-to guys whom we relied upon to do the things we needed doing. This resulted in them feeling picked on, while others in the team felt we had our favourites. So, no-one was truly happy.

Let’s stop here to discuss what I mean by delegation and make absolutely clear that I am not talking about simply allocating a task that I, as the manager, do not want to do. No, that’s just task allocation or even dumping.

There are many definitions of delegation. One of my favourites is:

Assigning responsibility and authority to someone in order to complete a clearly defined and agreed upon task while you retain ultimate accountability for its success. Delegation incorporates empowering your teammates through effective leadership, and may be directed in any direction and used in any organisation

I can’t remember where that came from so if it was you, thank you very much!

The process that I want to outline to you now is, I believe, the way to ensure you delegate effectively. The seven key steps are:

  1. Clearly define what’s expected – This is based on the principle that if we can’t describe clearly what a good job would look like, how can the person we delegate to possible know what they are being asked to do? By the way, you haven’t delegated anything yet!
  2. Skills and attributes needed – Once you know what you want/need to be done make a list of all the skills and attributes that a potential delegate needs to have if they are to be successful. Decide which of them are essential and which are desirable. By the way, you haven’t delegated anything yet!
  3. Identify potential candidates – OK, now make a list of all the people that, in your opinion, could successfully do the task; and always include yourself! Once you have a list of more than one person score each of them against each skill or attribute. I recommend using an even number scale. For example, 1 would be low in a particular skill or attribute and 6 would be high. This stops you from going down the middle. By the way, you haven’t delegated anything yet!
  4. Identify best person and why – Now total up the scores for each delegate. Obviously the person with the highest score is the best person, right? Well, yes, but that might defeat the objective because it will probably be you! No, look at the scores carefully. If there is a potential delegate that has maybe a low score in a key area you have just identified a skills gap or training need. By the way, you haven’t delegated anything yet!
  5. Are they too busy? – If they are, is there anything you can take off them and reallocate to someone else? By the way, you haven’t delegated anything yet!
  6. Sell don’t dump – OK, you now know ho is the best candidate to do the task and, critically, why. Now you need to figure out what’s in it for them if they take the job on. If your best answer is because you can’t be bothered to do it then you have failed; sorry! This is a critical step because you will probably want them to be committed and keen to take the job on, so give them a reason to be. By the way, you haven’t delegated anything yet!
  7. Opportunity for development/growth – Part of the answer to step 6 is that you can demonstrate or sell to them that there is an opportunity for them to grow and develop by taking on the task you want to delegate. OK, now you can delegate!!!

So, there you are. Seven steps that will help you to delegate more effectively and will provide you with answers to most objections that you are likely to get. You can prove that you have given the act of delegating a task some real thought and can demonstrate why the person you have selected is the best person for the job and what’s in it for them.

It will also save you from the accusation of inappropriate delegation, which can be regarded as bullying; and you don’t want to be accused of that now do you?