What is Delegation in Management

Updated: 05 Oct, 2021 | Bill Peatman

If you want something done right, you should do it yourself.

Wrong.

Especially wrong in business. To be successful in business, you have to learn to delegate.

Consider what these successful businesspeople said about delegation.

"No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit." - Industrialist Andrew Carnegie

"If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you've got to learn to delegate." Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson

"You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay, or skip the rest." - Kiva founder Jessica Jackley

What is Delegation in Management

Delegation in management is the act of transferring responsibility for work you are doing to someone else. Business leaders often do as much work as possible themselves to save money when the business is young. That approach becomes unsustainable as the business grows. Some executives struggle to let go of responsibilities for fear that others won't be as good at them or care as much about them. They end up being overwhelmed, and business growth plateaus.

Why Is Delegation in Management Important

Delegation management is vital because, without it, businesses cannot grow. If an executive cannot or does not delegate, the company will be limited to the time the executive can spend on it. Ideally, you are finding people that are better suited than you are for specific business functions. Delegation management also improves your business because as you trust your employees with responsibilities, they are more loyal and committed to your organization. As you entrust your employees with greater responsibilities, others will see growth opportunities in your organization. You will be able to attract and retain higher-performing workers.

What Should Be Delegated

Delegation in management is the act of transferring responsibility for work you are doing to someone else. Business leaders often do as much work as possible themselves to save money when the business is young. That approach becomes unsustainable as the business grows. Some executives struggle to let go of responsibilities for fear that others won't be as good at them or care as much about them. They end up being overwhelmed, and business growth plateaus.

  • Advertising
  • Website development
  • Graphic design
  • Accounting
  • Payroll

These are tasks that are not central to your business and require expertise that executives do not have. A software business leader is not an advertising expert, for example. The delegation that executives often struggle with has to do with work that is integral to the business. They keep the company moving forward—but they are not appropriate for the executive role. Examples include:

  • Calendar management
  • Email communications
  • Data entry
  • Invoicing and payment processing

On average, executives spend 16 hours a week on administrative tasks. That's two full days per week. While necessary, these tasks do not require executive judgment and leadership. The procedures to execute these tasks are easy to document and hand off to someone else.

Delegation in Management Best Practices

  • When your to-do list is growing faster than you can cross things off, it is time to think about delegating responsibilities. Here is how to get started.
  • Choose the right person or partner. Review the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Who has the experience or understanding needed to take on the tasks? Or who would you like to train to take on more responsibilities? If you do not have internal resources, are there contractors or agencies to take on the work?
  • Provide clear direction. The best way to delegate a task or function is to document your processes and preferences. For example, if you are going to have someone else schedule your meetings for you, you can detail your preferences for:
    • Times of day
    • Locations
    • Meeting length
    • Buffer time between meetings
    • Confirmations

Documenting your processes and preferences makes it easier for someone to take on the task, and it also makes it easier to replace that person if they move on inside or outside the business.

  • Explain the goal as well as the process. Make sure the person you delegate to understands the desire outcomes of the functions you are handing off. If they know the larger objectives, it opens the door to process improvement. For example, if you are delegating invoicing and payment processing, explain the outcome you want—prompt payment. The person you trust that to may find better ways to achieve this outcome over time.
  • Provide the right resources. If the person you are delegating to needs new tools or technology, make sure you give them the access and training they need to do the work.
  • Do not expect perfection. At least not right away. It may take some time for a new owner of a task to get it consistently right. Mistakes will happen. You need to provide supportive feedback, not criticism, to encourage progress. Let them know it is OK to ask questions early on. If the questions do not decline over time, then you might have chosen the wrong person.
  • Delegate authority too. Your goal should be process improvement. Make sure the people you choose know that you are open to finding better ways to work. You should expect that. Continual process optimization is the goal.

Obstacles to Delegation in Management

Why do executives resist delegation? Well, because delegating is not easy. It takes some front-end time and attention that seasoned multitaskers find challenging. There are several reasons executives resist or avoid delegating:

  • They think no one can do something better than they can
  • A lack of trust in their employees
  • They believe it will take more time to train someone than to do it themselves
  • They cannot let go of control of processes
  • They fear it will make them look weak or incapable
  • They don't want more people to manage

Whether it is fear, ego, or procrastination that causes executives to resist delegation, it has to happen for a business to grow beyond what one person can manage.

How to Get Started with Delegation in Management

The best way to get started with delegation in management is to start small. Start with tasks or responsibilities that are easy to document and train someone how to do. Administrative tasks are a good place to start. These tasks include:

  • Scheduling meetings
  • Screening emails
  • Planning travel
  • Filing expense reports
  • CRM data entry and management
  • Email marketing campaigns

These tasks are easier to delegate because they are objective—they don't require much judgment once the process is defined. As employees learn your style and preferences, you will be able to hand them higher-order tasks that require some decision-making.

Delegate Employee Growth

Survey after survey shows that employees want growth opportunities. If you do not give your team responsibility, training, and autonomy, you risk losing them. There is no point in paying yourself to perform tasks like scheduling meetings, planning events and travel, entering sales and financial data, and invoicing and payments. There should be people in your organization who can take on these tasks. Or they are easily outsourced to a third party.

Wouldn't you like to get 16 more hours in your week? Prialto has provided outsourced administrative services for more than ten years. We hire, train, support, and manage virtual assistants for executives all over the world. To learn more about our service, get this guide.

Discover how a virtual assistant can boost your productivity,

About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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