The Seven Keys to Effective Delegation

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Brian Tracy

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books, articles, and courses on the subject of delegation. Many of the ideas they teach can be distilled into seven key skills.

Delegate Specific Results
Help your employees to be perfectly clear about the results expected of them in the completion of a particular task, not simply the activities that they need to engage in each day.

Keep reminding people of what they have been hired to accomplish. The way to build high-performance people in your business is to keep them focused on achieving results all the time. The more specific, measurable results that employees can accomplish in their work, the happier and more motivated they will be. They will feel like “winners.”

  1. Match the Person to the Job
    This doesn’t mean you can’t give people jobs that are more challenging than what they are doing now, but it is important that you not give them jobs that are too difficult or so beyond their current abilities that they have little chance of success.

    Keeping an incompetent person in a key position long after it is clear that the person is not up to the job is one reason businesses end up failing. In this situation, the boss or often the CEO selects and assigns the wrong person to a job. Then, because of ego reasons, the person who delegated the job is not willing to admit making a mistake—that the individual is not competent enough to do the job.

    It is amazing to me how many companies suffer substantial losses, and even go broke, because the board of directors has assigned a CEO who is obviously out of his depth in this particular job. The CEO or executive might have been excellent in a previous position, with a previous company in a different industry, but in this specific situation, he is unable to get the results required.

  2. Delegate Gradually
    Delegate gradually so you can build up confidence in a new person. It is true that you want to start a new person off strong, giving the new worker lots of little tasks from the very beginning, but with regard to larger and more important tasks, delegate gradually. Let the employee demonstrate to you over a period of time that he has the capability to manage ever-larger assignments and tasks. Otherwise, less than competent individuals can feel overwhelmed and create far more problems than they solve.

  3. Delegate the Whole Task
    One hundred percent responsibility for task completion builds confidence, competence, and self-esteem.

    Each of your employees, in every position, should have at least one job that is totally their own. This is a job for which they are 100% responsible. If they do not do this job, it will not be done by anyone else.

    Many companies make the mistake of assigning a single job to two or more people. The managers calculate that, if one person is busy or not available, the other person will step in and pick up the slack. What happens is that neither person feels responsible for the job. It becomes an “orphan position.” To resolve this potential conflict, you also need to assign exclusive responsibility. That is, make one person exclusively responsible for the successful completion of the task, and make it quite clear to those in backup positions that their job is to step in when the key person is not available or is not capable of doing the job. But only one person owns the job.

    Let your employees know when they are completely responsible for an important task. Employees demonstrate greater loyalty, commitment, and dedication to the organization when they feel a sense of ownership and personal empowerment.

  4. Encourage Participation and Discussion
    Remember, there is a direct relationship between conversation and commitment. When employees have access to the boss, they have greater commitment to doing the job right. The more people can discuss the job with their boss, the more they internalize the job and accept ownership for its successful completion.

    If you simply tell people to do something and then go back to your work, your employees won’t show much commitment to the job. But if you discuss it with them and they participate in developing a plan to do the job, they will be committed to doing it well. When you explain the why, the how, and the standards clearly, and they get a chance to comment and ask questions, they walk away feeling as if they own the job. It belongs to them. They are in charge and in control.

  5. Delegate Authority and Responsibility
    If it is a big assignment, tell your employees how much time they will have and who else they can ask for help. Make clear as well the amount of money they can spend on doing the job and the other resources that are available to them.

    A big mistake that managers make is to underestimate what employees will require to do the job properly, on time, and on budget. They underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete the job and the dollar costs of the activities necessary to fulfill the responsibility. The delegation process itself can help: When bosses discuss the assignment with their subordinates, they usually realize how much time and money is actually required for the job, and they decide, as a result, that the job has as high a priority as other jobs.

  6. Leave the Person Alone
    The seventh and final key to effective delegation is that once you have delegated a task, leave the person alone. Give the subordinate 100% responsibility for the job. Don’t take the job back.

    You can inadvertently “take it back” by continually checking on the person, asking for too much feedback, and then giving comments and recommending changes in processes or procedures. Some managers have a terrible habit of literally taking over activities and assignments after they had been delegated. This leaves employees feeling that the responsibility is no longer theirs.

    Your ability to delegate and then to make sure that the employee does the job is the key determinant of your success as a manager. With delegation, your potential is unlimited. Without the ability to delegate, you will have to do everything yourself.

© 2013 Brian Tracy. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Delegation & Supervision, (The Brian Tracy Success Library), by Brian Tracy. Used with permission of the publisher, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.

You can learn more about how to delegate effectively at these AMA seminars:
Delegation Boot Camp

Successfully Managing People

About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy is the chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. One of the top business speakers and authorities in the world today, he has written 55 books and produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on management, motivation, and personal success.