Organization & Leadership Consulting

The Practicalities of Delegation

an illustration of office employees going through the process of delegation

The history of management is in part a history of delegation…from the beginning. Whether you believe it’s myth or truth, the book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian scriptures tells of God the Creator delegating to Adam and Eve, his first “employees”. They were given dominion over the garden of Eden and assigned specific tasks to do and boundaries within which to execute them. The world has been full of dysfunctional work environments ever since.

Fortunately, more than enough “employees”, also with creative abilities, developed simplified approaches to delegation that work even in complex scenarios. Several are briefly described below.

But first, one more mindset reminder. Your approach to delegation will be profoundly influenced by what you believe about people and what you prioritize. Do you tend to use people to get the work done? Or do you act as though work is a means of getting people done (growing them)? Either mindset will shape how you “hang a task” on any of the following frameworks.

A universal, bare-bones framework for delegation is:

  1.       You watch me do it while I explain it and you ask questions.
  2.     We do it together while discussing the why-to, how-to, and what-not-to details.
  3.     You do it while I watch and ask you questions.
  4.     You do it while I do something else. Then you tell me about it.
  5.     You do it while someone else watches…and repeat 1-4.

This model is highly adaptable and easy to add your own cultural nuances to. Discussing the framework itself can lead to tighter alignment.

Here are some examples and resources:

Check out Gavin Adam’s model of effective delegation here. This model was developed within a faith-based nonprofit. That context shaped its orientation toward the “use the work to grow the people” mindset.

Another easily digestible model comes from psychologist Donna M. Genett, Ph.D. In her book If You Want it done Right You Don’t Have to Do it Yourself! In fewer than 100 pages, she offers the six steps and lists the benefits to the delegator, the delegate, and the organization. It is a practical and engaging approach to both the model and its delivery. The six steps are:

  1.      Prepare
  2.     Clarify expectations
  3.     Agree on timeframes
  4.     Define levels of authority
  5.     Utilize checkpoints
  6.     Debrief

Before you decide you have enough to go on with those short words or phrases, consider reading the book. It illustrates each point clearly and provides additional context.

Another valuable source of insight on this topic is Ken Blanchard and his team. Ken endorsed Dr. Genett’s book. He also wrote a run-away bestseller The One-Minute Manager and eventually followed that with many others. Almost everything Ken and his colleagues have produced is about managing in ways that grow people so more good work gets done in ways that provide meaningful results for all involved.

Effective delegation happens when the details under two headings are executed well:

1) Choosing and acknowledging an appropriate mindset and 2) Consistently using a model with a framework that fits your culture. Everything that grows requires a supportive structure and attention to what brings about growth. Oh, we hope you chose to grow people.

Contact TurningWest – Your Guide to a Healthy Culture with Meaningful Results


Leave a Reply