For all new managers the whole notion of delegation can be a little daunting; it sounds easy enough, but in practise, all too often delegation turns into simply dumping a task on an unsuspecting colleague. So, what is the difference and how can we ensure that those charged with managing our teams, whether in sales, production or marketing etc. are doing the former expertly and not the latter?


One of the first things you will learn as a new manager is that your boss is going to give you jobs and you can be sure that they are going to give you ‘loads’ of jobs! Rule number one is, don’t try and do all of them all yourself or you run a high risk of being overwhelmed very quickly. The point being, as soon as you take on the responsibility of ‘manager’ then things are going to come your way thick and fast. This means that you need to be ready for them and have faith in those around you that when you in turn ask them to do something for you (or delegate that task) that it is going to be done and executed to the standard required.


Let’s consider for a moment, what the essence of delegation is. Something often described as the ‘Art’ of delegation. There are two key words that you should keep at the forefront of your mind when delegating a task to someone, they are; Responsibility and Authority.


When delegating a task to anyone, you are delegating the responsibility for that task to the individual concerned. However, they cannot perform that task efficiently if you do not also hand them the authority to deal with it. However, and this is the most important thing to remember; it’s vital to note that you, as the delegating party, must still assume accountability for the task in question. You are simply directing/asking someone else to perform the task on your behalf.


If you relinquish accountability for the task you want performed once it is handed over, then in truth, you have simply dumped that job onto someone else. Because there is no way of measuring the job and no agreed form of follow up. It is important that all new managers understand the difference and recognise that they are the person ultimately accountable for the tasks given to them, even if they delegate it down, not least because at some future point they will probably have to provide an explanation for any lack of success in execution of the task.


Consider the thoughts of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President who said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and has the self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.”


He is saying exactly this same thing, ask someone to do the job but don’t make them a ‘Tiger with no claws’ by interfering and undermining their authority to get it done.


On the basis that you are never going to be able to perform each and every task handed to you all by yourself, when you delegate, then it is up to you to carefully select the right individual for the right task. Ensure that the person you are giving the task to has the necessary skill and experience to carry it out. This will ultimately make your life a great easier. Plus, you will empower that person and build their confidence by showing faith in their ability to complete a task satisfactorily. This of course also has the added benefit of reducing down your own ‘To-Do’ list to a manageable level.


By careful monitoring of the task (not interfering) to each person you delegate to, then you will also have a great opportunity to assess their current capabilities. By watching how they do with the job you have given them you can assess and decide on any future issues concerning their personal and professional development as a result of how they perform the task.


When you are delegating a task to someone else it’s always useful to consider how tasks are delegated to you and decide on whether you are happy with that process. If you are then you can be sure that your boss has probably done a decent job of delegating to you. If not, then consider the areas where you think there should be improvements to the process and address those issues as you delegate items to your own staff.


In other words, did the person giving you the task explain exactly what was required and why you were given the job? Also, did they put in place some credible metrics by which to measure your performance and agree them with you? If not, then make sure you don’t repeat their shortcomings by correcting this element when you delegate something.


One of the most successful people in business, and in his day the world’s wealthiest man, learned the lesson of delegation from his father at a very early age. Andrew Carnegie built a fortune in steel and had a long-held philosophy that it is far better to surround yourself with people who are better at their job than you could ever be. 


“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”

Andrew Carnegie, industrialist


The reason that delegation if often referred to as an ‘Art’ is that there is no exact science to it. Every individual will react differently to the task you set them and their ability to complete it. Therefore, finding the right metric by which to measure them and their execution of the task is essential, and the key things is for the person to know is why they have been given the task, what is expected of them and how they will be measured upon completion.


For your part, try not to interfere, of course the job is still yours in terms of accountability but remember you are trusting someone else to complete the task for you. Let them do it, help and encourage along the way, measure it appropriately and ensure that you reward a job well done… on your behalf!


Here at Maguire Training we have classroom-based courses and programmes that can help you with understanding the art of delegation. We are also proud to offer a versatile and intuitive suite of over a hundred e-learning modules on our website which covers a range of leadership, business management, strategy and related topics. Have a look at our elearning module ‘The Art of Delegation & Empowerment’ which would be the prefect complement to our classroom-based programmes.


If you need further information then you could always call us of course on 0333 5777 144 for a no obligation discussion about your training requirements. Alternatively, simply hit the ‘Contact Us’ on any page of our website at and we’ll get right back to you.


Either way it would be great to hear from you.

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