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

Guidelines for Delegation

by

Last updated: July 23, 2019

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? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.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:

Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torchBeyond Our Control
When bad things happen, despite our plans and our best efforts, we sometimes feel responsible. We failed. We could have done more. But is that really true? Aren't some things beyond our control?
The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus, a German World War II super-heavy tankWhy There Are Pet Projects
Pet projects are common in organizations, including organizations with healthy and mature planning processes. They usually consume resources at levels beyond what the organization intends, which raises the question of their genesis: Where do pet projects come from?
Portrait of Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810), Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revo|-|lu|-|tionary WarThe Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy
Much of what we call work is about as effective and relevant as rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic. We continue our exploration of futile and irrelevant work, this time emphasizing behaviors related to strategy.
Desperation at workReframing Revision Resentment: I
From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden.
Feeling shameEmbarrassment, Shame, and Guilt at Work: Creation
Three feelings are often confused with each other: embarrassment, shame, and guilt. To understand how to cope with these feelings, begin by understanding what different kinds of situations we use when we create these feelings.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The planet Earth on planet Earth on April 17, 2019Coming February 26: Unintended Condescension: II
Intentionally making condescending remarks is something most of us do only when we lose control. But anyone at any time can inadvertently make a remark that someone else experiences as condescending. We explored two patterns to avoid last time. Here are two more. Available here and by RSS on February 26.
A remorseful dogAnd on March 4: Workplace Remorse
Remorse is an unpleasant emotion. But it need not be something we suppress or avoid. It can provide a path to a positive learning experience that adds meaning to life. Available here and by RSS on March 4.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, 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.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet 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.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!

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.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.