Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 10, Issue 10;   March 10, 2010: Guidelines for Delegation

Guidelines for Delegation

by

Mastering the art of delegation can increase your productivity, and help to develop the skills of the people you lead or manage. And it makes them better delegators, too. Here are some guidelines for delegation.
Admiral Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans, first Baron Mountevans of Chelsea

Admiral Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans, 1st Baron Mountevans of Chelsea. Earlier in his career, he was second in command of the British Antarctic Expedition 1910 (also known as the Terra Nova expedition). He was in command of the Terra Nova from Cardiff to Capetown, where the expedition leader, Capt. Robert F. Scott, caught up with the Terra Nova by fast mail boat. The plan had been for then Lt. Evans to be in command until the ship reached Melbourne, where Capt. Scott would be waiting and then assume command. But having caught up with the Terra Nova early, in Capetown, Capt. Scott assumed command there, thus infringing — or rescinding without cause — previously delegated authority. Lt. Evans hid his feelings, but he nevertheless took this change of plan as a slur, and thus the tension between the two leaders began to take hold and bloom into a serious problem of leadership. For more, see Roland Huntford's history, The Last Place on Earth. Photo obtained from Wikipedia.

Delegating is the investing of responsibility and authority from you to your subordinates. It creates reserves for you and gives your subordinates a chance to grow. Too often, though, troubles arise because we don't have a clear understanding of how to delegate effectively. Here are some guidelines you might find helpful.

You can't delegate your own accountability
Even though you might have delegated something, you remain accountable for it. Your subordinate is accountable to you, but you are still accountable for whatever you delegated.
Be prepared to rescind
Sometimes, things don't work out. You might have delegated inappropriately, or your subordinate might fail for some reason. Since you always retain the responsibility to revisit your decision, be prepared to do so, but never rescind without cause.
Your subordinate has final say
Even if you believe that your delegation decisions were correct, your subordinates control their own levels of passion and commitment. They might agree to accept what you delegate, but unless they're truly committed, delegation can create trouble.
Keep your promises
When what you delegate is unappealing, there's a temptation to promise something in exchange. If you do promise something, keep that promise. If you can't keep the promise, don't make the promise.
The greater the risk, the more important is delegation
In risky situations, emergencies can occur, because when things go wrong, they sometimes go wrong in herds. To create reserves to manage these emergencies, delegate.
Delegate fully
When you delegate something, delegate it fully. You remain accountable for it, but it's no longer yours. Get out of the way.
Delegate authority, not just work
Delegating the work of a task, and not the authority to determine the manner of accomplishing it, can be demoralizing for the subordinate. This is particularly true of tasks requiring creativity, insight, or commitment.
Never infringe delegated authority
Infringing delegated You can't delegate
your own accountability
authority is demoralizing and creates problems for future delegation. If you feel the need to infringe, but you don't see a need to rescind the delegation, you're probably over the line.
Have an inform-as-soon-as-you-know norm
Make an agreement that each of you will inform the other as soon as you learn anything that changes the risk profile of whatever you delegated. Your subordinate agrees to alert you when trouble looms, and you agree to tell your subordinate about any enhanced risks. It's a trusting partnership.
Establish checkpoint expectations
Since you remain accountable for whatever you delegated, you have a right to reasonable monitoring of progress. Work out with your subordinate a mutually acceptable set of checkpoints, and stick to them, asking for status reporting neither more frequently nor less frequently than you agreed.

Most important is clear, two-way communication between you and your subordinate. Mutual understanding of your mutual agreement is essential to a successful delegation experience. OK, now. You can take it from here. Go to top Top  Next issue: Risk Management Risk: I  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenywGafSxKRQdTPTdXner@ChachzHWBlpQLAUQJuPfoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

Game ballsWorkplace Politics Is Not a Game
We often think about "playing the game" — either with relish or repugnance. Whatever your level of skill or interest, you'll do better if you see workplace politics as it is. It is not a game.
George Washington Crossing the DelawareThe Advantages of Political Attack: II
In workplace politics, attackers are often surprisingly successful with even the flimsiest assertions. Often, they prevail, in part, because they can choose the time and venue for their attacks. They also have the advantage of preparation. How can targets respond effectively?
Linda Tripp, a central figure in the impeachment of President ClintonPumpers
In workplace politics, some people always seem to be seeking information about others, but they give very little in return. They're pumpers. What can you do to deal with pumpers?
President Harry S. Truman, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, meeting at Wake Island, 14 October 1950Ground Level Sources of Scope Creep
We usually think of scope creep as having been induced by managerial decisions. And most often, it probably is. But most project team members — and others as well — can contribute to the problem.
Three Card Monte, Jaffa, IsraelFooling Ourselves
Humans have impressive abilities to convince themselves of things that are false. One explanation for this behavior is the theory of cognitive dissonance.

See also Workplace Politics and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

C. Northcote Parkinson in 1961Coming September 27: Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are three examples of this pattern. Available here and by RSS on September 27.
A typical standup meetingAnd on October 4: Meeting Troubles: Culture
Sometimes meetings are less effective than they might be because of cultural factors that are outside our awareness. Here are some examples. Available here and by RSS on October 4.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenOicTKbDiIfKEOepyner@ChacvhyyJeYKjSQZLhhHoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…

Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.