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Alumni in Action

Alumni Webinar Series: Effective Delegation Strategies

By Alumni Relations

November 19, 2020

Delegation is the process of assigning tasks or projects to subordinates and clearly dictating expected outcomes and a timeframe for completion. It gives leaders the time and ability to focus on higher-level tasks, develops trust between workers, and improves efficiency, productivity, and time management. Betsy Hagan, an instructor at Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development, shares examples of bad habits formed by delegators, plus five tips every delegator should strive to accomplish.

Poor delegators don’t necessarily have bad intentions, but often have bad habits. Hagan defines four kinds of delegators to avoid becoming:

The Drive-by Delegator: This delegator is too informal with the recipient. They stop by casually and unload work without much notice or process. They usually just want someone else to do their tasks.

The Dribbling Delegator: This person hands out tasks in a random way. There’s no methodology or context to why this delegator is asking others to do things for them. Often it’s the tasks that they don’t want to perform and are of low value to them.

The Mumbling Delegator: This delegator doesn’t know the exact outcomes they want from the project they’re delegating. The recipient is left unclear and most likely won’t be able to accomplish much without further instruction.

The Chicken Little Delegator: This person’s delegation comes in the form of, “This is isn’t working and I need you to fix it right now.” This often reflects a systemic problem that leadership needs to fix at the source, rather than look to employees to patch. This can annoy employees and lessen trust with their manager.

To avoid falling into those habits, Hagan suggests five tips to becoming a great delegator:

Tip 1: Understand the value of delegation

Understanding the value of delegation will help determine when to delegate. Ask yourself who benefits from doing the work, and if you’ll have time to focus on higher priority items if you delegate. If it’s beneficial for both the manger and the recipient, then it’s worth it.

Tip 2: Identify the appropriate delegation targets

Great delegators ask themselves what the task at hand is, how it should be accomplished, and who in the organization has the skillset to meet the desired outcome. Tasks should not be delegated based off who has the most free time.

Tip 3: Get everyone on the same page

It’s important that the recipient fully understands what you’re asking of them. As a delegator, you should connect the recipient of the project with other relevant stakeholders. The whole team should know about the delegation to avoid confusion.

Tip 4: Exhibit behaviors that build trust

Make sure you’re purposeful and supportive of the task and person you’re delegating to. Set clear expectations and be transparent with that person on how they will be assessed. Make sure that the recipient will feel comfortable taking more work in the future.

Tip 5: Don’t let ego get in the way

Quality delegators never let their ego get in the way of the work. Great delegators understand that they are not the hero, but the hero’s coach. They should want their employees to succeed, but it’s their job to position them for success.

Hagan is an independent consultant specializing in organizational effectiveness and talent development. She is an instructor at the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development. Her background includes 15 years of senior leadership experience in corporate human resources and program management with Hewitt Associates LLC, a $3 billion HR consulting and outsourcing company located in Lincolnshire, Illinois.