Tips for Effectively Delegating Tasks as a Leader

The effective delegation of tasks to employees is a characteristic that all leaders require in order to meet their team and organizational goals.  It is a small characteristic that is commonly overlooked by those looking to enter a leadership role.  Delegating work comes naturally for some, but can be very difficult for others.  Luckily, there are many tips, tricks, and strategies that can help to ensure you are delegating effectively, no matter the task.


Play to your employee’s strengths, skills, and experiences

Quite possibly the most important step in delegating a work task is selecting the right individual or group to attack it.  It is critical to select the employee(s) with the appropriate skills and knowledge for the task at hand.  For example: delegating a tedious task (such as data entry) to a senior-level engineer may lead to very shoddy work due to the fact that this specific engineer looks at themselves as being much more valuable to the organization than someone who does data entry.  On the contrary, you don’t want to assign a major, high-budget project to a junior associate who doesn’t have experience handling large budgets.

An effective, yet “outside-the-box” approach is to actually involve your employee’s in the delegation process.  The idea is that the right team member(s) will volunteer for the project or task, leading to a motivated and dedicated team acting responsibly.  Traditionally, volunteers are less likely to become demotivated by certain tasks, thus being more focused and determined to meet or exceed expectations.


Clearly state the outcome(s) you are expecting

HOW the task is completed is not nearly as important as WHAT results are to be expected

Once the appropriate team member(s) have been selected, the next best thing to focus on as a leader are the RESULTS that you expect.  It is of paramount importance to clearly define expectations.  What are you looking for?  What aren’t you looking for?  What is too much?  What is too little?  If the outcome of the task isn’t fully defined, the responsible party could come back with results that are extremely far from expectations.

Imagine this scenario: you delegate a few individuals to build 100 prototypes for a market research study you have scheduled in 5 business days.  You have a business conference and will be out of the office for the first three days and are asking that they get a good head start while you are gone.  You have outlined the technical needs and even the instructions on how to build the prototypes.  You don’t hear anything from the team while you are out, so things must be going swimmingly… When you arrive at the office after the conference your team is ecstatic to break the news that they already finished all 100 prototypes!!  You probe to ask how they did this so quickly and come to find out, they were building at such a high rate and trying to hit the quota that they ended up scrapping 1 in every 5 prototypes built. This means your delegates wasted 400 prototypes worth of material!! This was a critical piece of information that needed to be shared with your delegates.  How are you supposed to supply any future studies when you have wasted the majority of your inventory?  This is just a simple example of how a small piece of information related to the outcome can make or break the expected results.

How the results are reached is not as important as what the results actually are.  Your way may not be the best way of getting there (that’s why this should be left for the delegate to figure out); your job is to simply provide them with the proper resources they need to get the job done.  Allowing them to create their own methods, processes, and approach helps portray trust in your employees and, overall, facilitates success.


Define the priorities of all inputs and outputs

Where should the inputs come from to complete the task?  Who should they come from?  Which inputs are the most important?  These are all questions you should be asking yourself and informing your delegate(s) of at the beginning of the process.  You never know what direction your employee(s) may be pulled when your hands are off. Some functional group(s) may think that their inputs into a project are the most important when they are actually the least critical in your opinion.  It is very common for a delegate to get contradicting information from their input sources; that is why it is critical to weigh these sources/inputs from the get-go.

In addition to prioritizing the inputs, it is just as important (if not more important) to identify the priorities of the expected outcomes.  Reflecting back on our prototype-building example, we should have acknowledged and weighed the importance of keeping the scrap to a minimum.  This would have allowed the team to recognize and analyze the situation more carefully, most likely leading to the understanding that the scrap rate was too high for meeting the expected quota.  With any task where multiple outputs are expected (which is basically all of them), the importance/priority of all of them needs to be understood in order to gain expected results.


Identify all possible constraints and boundaries

Keep employees focused by identifying all possible constraints/boundaries for a given task.

What are the delegate’s roles and responsibilities?  What are the roles and responsibilities of all of the stakeholders for the task?  What should be done if additional work is added to the project (i.e. scope creep)?  What are the technical constraints for the project/task?  These are more questions you should be asking yourself and communicating with your employees when delegating.

Once you have alignment with your delegate(s) on the inputs and outputs, it’s time to outline all of the constraints, boundaries, and limitations that exist for the task.  This is another critical piece of the puzzle because it will keep your employees focused and minimizes the chance of task/project scope creep (i.e. additional work being completed).  Outlining and detailing out all of these items will greatly improve your employee effectiveness.



Motivating your employees seems obvious, but there are very effective means of doing so that are often overlooked and can make the difference between good and bad results.

  • High-Level Impact: You should communicate to your selected delegate(s) how this specific task will help the team and organization.  This provides meaning to the work and is proven to increase performance/results.
  • Career Advancement:  Let them know how it can improve their future career.  Will this task teach or expose them to something new?  Will it help them get exposure to upper management?  All of these advancement opportunities will drive motivation and learning lessons can always be found through the completion of tasks.
  • Instill Trust:  As mentioned above, instilling trust in your employees leads to employee confidence and improved performance.
  • Provide Recognition:  Providing adequate recognition to your team for completing tasks will set a precedent for all future work, making your group more willing to take on these duties and completing them with diligence.

Recognizing your employees for the achievements they have reached.

recognize employees for their achievements

Find additional tips and strategies for motivating your employees here.


Make yourself available

This one is pretty simple but often ignored. Offer yourself up as much as you can.  Offer to address any questions they may have and ask to be brought into the loop if any major concerns arise.  As a manager or leader, the last thing you want is last-minute surprises.  To reduce the risk of a major catastrophe, be available to your delegates!


Request feedback and reflect for continuous improvement

As any good leader or manager knows, requesting feedback and continuous improvement are musts.  After the completion of the task/project, you should be analyzing the results in the utmost detail to better understand what went well and what didn’t.  A leader who doesn’t reflect on the results that they have received is a leader who will never improve, and that is not the type of person employees want to work for.


Final Thoughts:

Delegating work to your team is something that every leader will need to do in order to meet their goals.  Although it doesn’t take much time to delegate tasks, it can definitely save time in the long run if done effectively.  The proper delegation of work can make or break the meeting of deadlines, the quality of work that was expected, and most importantly affect the amount of development that an employee gets out of it.  We have provided you with tips and a strategy to improve your ability of tasks. We hope you find this useful in developing yourself as a leader.  Let us know what has helped you when delegating in the comments below!

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