Staples | ABCs of Delegation

ABCs of Delegation

Smart business people think of delegating as a way to free their own time, but they also know it's important for other reasons: By getting co–workers involved, a stronger team is created. Delegating is one of the best secrets to getting a job done well and on time.

Select what is to be delegated

  • Consider your daily workload and which jobs might be delegated. If no assignments come to mind, then spend a few days keeping a running log of the work you do. This will give you a list to scan of tasks to delegate.
  • While some boring tasks must always be delegated, also make an effort to delegate more challenging work. The people around you need to be stimulated and have their capabilities tested.
  • Select the person to whom the job must be delegated. Ask yourself, Who is the best person to handle this task? Try to match the skills required with a qualified employee.
  • Sometimes the correct choice is to delegate to an outside service. Companies are now hiring everything from messengers to lawyer–temps to help out on an as–needed basis. If your staff is overburdened or not equipped to handle the task, where can you turn to get the job done?
  • Choose the right opportunity for delegating a job for the first time. There should be enough slack in the schedule so that if something goes wrong, there is time to make a correction. The object of delegation is long–term productivity, not just short–term job relief.


  • Set aside uninterrupted time to explain the job.
  • Explain what you want accomplished (update mailing list, gather resource material for a report), and discuss how best to do this. Once the person is trained, you will also give a firm date for a progress report.
  • Don't assume the person knows how to do something or where certain information is to be found.
  • With most assignments, you will want to work alongside the person the first time, making suggestions as he or she goes along.

Put it in writing

  • Any project should have an assignment sheet. Devote a different sheet for each project. Record: date assignment was made, to whom it was assigned, description of the assignment, due dates, any notes.
  • If you are delegating a project with many parts, assign the tasks so that they will be completed in the correct order and on schedule.
  • Checkpoints should be established at the outset so that the person knows in advance that you will need to see the project at various stages. The newer the employee, the more frequent the checkpoints.


  • As you prepare to give the person some independence, think through the delegated project and anticipate what the employee may need. It's best if you can anticipate the task requirements (special permission to access files, authority to hire temporary help), so that they needn't check back with you for the basics.
  • Set a firm completion date. "As soon as possible..." is a good way for the project to be put on the back burner. If you need it Friday, say so!
  • Let the person know you're available if there are questions.
  • Make it clear that you would rather know sooner — not later — if he or she has run into difficulties.
  • Don't hover. And let the person make as many decisions as possible. That's why you delegated the job.
  • When something goes wrong, don't snatch away the project. Work with the employee to come up with a way to solve the problem.

Enjoy and congratulate

At this point, the other person should have the job under control. Your primary task now is to express your appreciation so that they'll feel rewarded for a job well done.

Author: The above article was written by Ronni Eisenberg, author of several organization books.

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