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Leadership Skills: Delegating Responsibility

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. - Abraham Lincoln

Support Strategic Objectives by finding roles and responsibilities necessary to support strategic aims; defining functions, obligations, and degrees of authority needed by individuals and teams; designing policies and procedures for managing delegated activities. This purpose is to review the senior level's distribution of roles and responsibilities. The review aims to ensure that the distribution is balanced and proper. This is also an opportunity to make sure that the old, executive-level management structure is appropriate for the strategic direction. If mismatches are discovered at this point, then the leader(s) have an opportunity to adjust the organizational structure at this level, to match the demands of the strategies better.

Make Decisions on Activity to Delegate by deciding which areas of work, routine activity, stand-alone projects, absence cover, critical operational decisions, emergency or business disaster events, and strategic level decisions should have responsibility or authority delegated to specific managers. This is a crucial stage but a difficult one. It involves forecasting and scenario planning to decide which activities and in which circumstances should responsibility and authority be given. It requires the delegating leader(s) to analyze the planned activity and potential events thoroughly, to find where delegation should take place, and to whom it should be given.

Selecting Managers and Specialists to Delegate To by identifying the current roles, responsibilities, and authority of those individuals and teams; evaluating the skills, abilities, and development potential of existing (senior management) individuals and groups; assessing the degree of responsibility and authority that can be given to individuals and teams; identifying coaching and-or training needs to prepare individuals and couples for delegation. Carefully profiling the existing senior management individuals is critical because the board will not be effective if it is given to an individual incapable of using the delegated powers effectively. Where gaps in capability are found, training or coaching should be supplied to fill that gap. If the corrective action needs to be long-term, then the delegation should be delayed until that process is complete.

Agree on Responsibilities, Levels of Authority, And Objectives, by finding delegated responsibilities and levels of authority for each manager, specialist, and team; discuss these with the respective managers and specialists; agree on the degree of delegation; agreeing the aims delegated to the individual. One of the most critical stages is where the delegated responsibility and authority details are explained, discussed, and agreed upon. At this point, the leader(s) should aim to gain commitment to the delegated duties and management, to targets and deadlines, both qualitative and quantitative.

They are clarifying The Boundaries by defining the limits of the boundaries of the delegated powers, discussing and agreeing on these boundaries, and deciding on action that should be taken when the edges are reached. This must be treated as a separate stage in the process and applies to both the leader and the manager being given delegated powers. The leader must understand and accept that delegation does not mean abandoning responsibility. The ultimate responsibility lies with the leader, the one delegating to others. Delegated powers must be managed and supported by the leader. The individual being given delegated powers must be clear about the limits of those powers and understand that when that boundary that limit is reached, they should refer to the one who entrusted it to them.

Remove Or Reduce Barriers to Effective Delegation by finding organizational policies, procedures, structures, practices, or cultural aspects, which work against effective delegation; discuss ways in which barriers could be weakened or removed; implement changes or adjustments to reduce or cut identified barriers. Most organizations have visible and hidden barriers that inhibit and hinder effective management. The role of the leader(s) is to introduce direction, strategies, structures, policies, procedures, and influences into the organization so that managers and specialists can run in a culture which encourages creativity, innovation, high-quality performance, and success. In parallel with this, the leader(s) must also enable managers and specialists to take local responsibility for activities and decision-making. To do this, barriers and constraints must be reduced to a minimum, leaving a proper level of controls in place.

Provide Support For Delegated Activity by discussing and agreeing on the level and nature of support needed; adopting a leadership style that provides appropriate availability, support, and guidance to those with delegated responsibilities, but also allowing them the freedom to carry out the delegated powers without unnecessary interference; reviewing levels of personal support and adjusting that support appropriately; consistently behaving in a manner that inspires and motivates those who have been delegated to. There are two most common reasons for delegation to fail. One is that the analytical and decision-making process was not thorough enough, leading to an inappropriate board degree. However, the other most common reason for failure is that the leader delegates and then do not supply proper support to the delegated manager. Once the leader has been commissioned, they must provide an appropriate level of personal support, encouragement, and resources to the individual. This support should include publicizing the delegated powers to relevant individuals and teams internally, informing other stakeholders, such as suppliers, customers, and clients, of the delegated powers, coaching, mentoring, and supplying training as proper.

Reward Performance by openly praising consistently high-quality operational performance and exceptional event performance; building performance on delegated powers into the organization’s performance appraisal system. An essential part of the process is because delegated powers are, by default, in the highest group of demands made on the individual and, when performed well, deserve recognition and praise. Rewards do not have to be large or monetary. Recognition and credit will be appreciated by the receiving individual, their teams, and other observers. The leader who delegated the powers must ensure that when proper, elevated performance levels in charged areas are achieved.

Monitor, Review, And Adjust by implementing regular reviews of the delegation process and individual instances; reviewing the appropriateness of current and planned delegation against the most recent strategic aims; taking corrective action where necessary. The leader(s) delegating powers to others should implement a monitoring and review process that requires them to review the entire process and individual performance. Individual performance should be checked continuously, with formal review points at least quarterly. The overall strategy should be reviewed at least every six months. At this point, the success of the process should be evaluated against the original aims and then adjusted to consider changes in operational activity and strategic direction.

In Summary: Leaders must delegate but must delegate effectively. The most successful leaders treat delegation as an essential strand of their leadership approach. Senior management structures, processes, and aims are reviewed to ensure delegation's suitability. Areas of work, activities, routine, and event-specific decisions are analyzed, evaluated, and where proper, the decision is made to delegate responsibility and authority. Delegated powers are explained, discussed, and agreed upon, and measurable aims are set. The leader then builds on this by adopting a consultative, supporting, coaching role proper for each individual delegated. Individual performance in applying delegated powers is checked and adjusted as necessary. Finally, the version of the delegation process is inspected and reviewed by the leader(s) and the senior management team to ensure that it is compatible with the organization's strategic direction.


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