How to Delegate to Employees

While we are editorial independent and recommend the best products through an independent review process, we may receive compensation if you click on links to partners we recommend.

Sections of this topic

    How to Delegate to Employees

    Sections of This Topic Include

    What is Delegating? How Is It Different Than Work Directing?
    Test – How Well Do You Delegate Now?
    How to Delegate For Growth and Performance of Your Employees
    Additional Perspectives on Delegating

    Also consider
    Related Library Topics

    What is Delegating? How Is It Different than
    Work Directing?

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA,

    Delegating is a critical skill for supervisors at any level. Delegating involves
    working with an employee to establish goals, granting them sufficient authority
    and responsibility to achieve the goals, often giving them 1) substantial freedom
    in deciding how the goals will be achieved, 2) remaining available as a resource
    to help them achieve the goals, 3) assessing the quality of their effort and
    attainment of the goals, 4) and addressing performance issues and/or rewarding
    their performance. Ultimately, the supervisor retains responsibility for the
    attainment of the goals, but chooses to achieve the goals by delegating to someone

    Delegating is different than work directing. Work directing is telling someone
    what to do and how to do it. There usually is much less freedom as to how the
    employee does the task, and many times is much less ownership, participation
    and learning on the part of the employee, as well.

    Delegation can sometimes be a major challenge for new supervisors to learn
    because they are concerned about giving up control or struggling to have confidence
    in the abilities of others. Supervisors that can effectively delegate can free
    up a great deal of their own time, help their direct reports to cultivate expertise
    in learning, and can develop their own leadership skills — skills that are
    critical for problem solving, goal attainment and learning.

    Test – How Well Do You Delegate Now?

    Take this online quiz.

    How Well
    Do You Delegate?

    What do you want to improve about how you delegate? Consider the many guidelines
    in this topic.

    How to Delegate for Growth and Performance of Your

    Thomas R. Horton, in Delegation and Team Building: No Solo Acts Please (Management
    Review, September 1992, pp. 58-61) suggests the following general steps to accomplish

    1. Delegate the whole task to one person.

    This gives the person complete responsibility for doing the task and increases
    the person’s motivation to do the task, as well. It also provides more
    focus for the supervisor when working with the person to understand that the
    desired results should look like.

    2. Select the right person to delegate to.

    Assess the skills and capabilities of the person to be sure that individual
    can actually accomplish the task. Does he/she have the knowledge, skills and
    abilities to do the task? If not, the person might need training. Or, perhaps
    the task should be delegated to someone else.

    3. Clearly specify your preferred results.

    Provide information on what the results should look like, why those results
    are desired, when the results should be accomplished, who else might help the
    person, and what resources the person has to work with. You might leave the
    “how to accomplish the task” to be decided by the person. It is
    often best to write this information down.

    4. Delegate responsibility and authority – assign the task, not the
    method to accomplish it.

    Let the person complete the task in the manner that he/she chooses, as long
    as the desired results are likely to be what the supervisor specifies. Let the
    person have strong input as to the completion date of the project. Note that
    you may not even know how to complete the task yourself – this is often
    the case with higher levels of management. Make sure that others in the organization
    understand that this person has both the responsibility and the authority to
    complete the task.

    5. Ask the person to summarize back to you, a description of the results you

    Explain that you are requesting the summary to be sure you effectively described
    the results to the person, not necessarily to be sure that the person heard
    you. That explanation helps the person to not feel as if he/she is somehow being
    treated as if he/she is untrustworthy.

    6. Get ongoing non-intrusive feedback about progress on the project.

    This is a good reason to continue to get weekly, written status reports from
    the person. Reports should describe what he/she did last week, plans to do next
    week, and any potential issues that might arise. Regular meetings with the person
    provide feedback, as well.

    7. Maintain open lines of communication.

    Do not hover over the person to monitor his/her performance, but do sense what
    he/she is doing and do support the person’s checking in with you while
    doing the task.

    8. If you are not satisfied with the progress, do not do the task yourself!

    Continue to work with the person to ensure that he/she perceives that the task
    is his/her responsibility. Look for the cause of your dissatisfaction. For example,
    is it lack of communication, training, resources or commitment of the person?

    9. Evaluate and reward the person’s performance.

    Evaluate achievement of desired results more than the methods used by the person.
    Address insufficient performance and reward successes.

    Additional Perspectives on Delegating

    Recommended Articles

    Delegation Tips
    (rounds out your knowledge, once you get basic steps down)

    Go and Delegate!

    Additional Articles

    Basics of

    4 Delegation Basics That Make it a Lot Less Scary for New Managers
    to Avoid Impossible Assignments

    Delegation Tips
    Leadership Priorities: What Facets of Management Shouldn’t You

    Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Delegate
    Your Small Business by Learning How to Let Go

    Delegate and relax
    We Are. Now What?: Delegation for Leaders

    Delegation – Top Performance Booster

    using Commitment Management

    Tips for Effective Delegation

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Delegating

    In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs
    that have posts related to Delegating. Scan down the blog’s page to see various
    posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of
    the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.
    The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

    Coaching Blog

    Leadership Blog

    Supervision Blog

    For the Category of Leadership:

    To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may
    want to review some related topics, available from the link below.
    Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

    Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been
    selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

    Library Topics

    Recommended Books