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Updated Jan 03, 2024

3 Elements of Delegation All Managers Should Know

Good leaders know how to delegate without micromanaging. These aspects of delegation can make your team more effective.

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Marisa Sanfilippo, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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As a manager, you have many responsibilities that might be overwhelming at times, but that’s why you have a team. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Many new managers struggle with this transition, feeling that they still must perform every minor assignment on their to-do list. To be an effective leader, though, it’s important to learn the art of delegation.

Whether you’ve just been promoted or you’ve been managing a team for a while, you should understand that effective delegation is good for your team’s productivity as well as yours and can even help your team learn new skills while establishing a culture of trust.

What is delegation?

graphic of a businessperson in front of a computer screen labeled Tasks

Delegation is when managers use their authority to assign responsibility to others in their workplace, such as their direct reports or co-workers. Delegating tasks is important because the higher-level strategic planning you’re responsible for takes time and energy. You won’t have either of those if you’re bogged down with busywork.

For example, imagine you are a marketing director overseeing an email campaign to a group of customers. Before the campaign can begin, you need to create its content, design its graphics and build an email list of your target audience. Then the campaign must be added to email marketing software such as iContact or Mailchimp. [Read related article: Best Email Marketing Software and Services of 2024

When delegating tasks for this campaign, a good manager must send detailed instructions via email or a delegation tool. Be sure to include your vision and goals in the instructions. In this example, the following staff are perfect for assisting with the campaign:

  • Graphic designer: Designs images to live alongside email content
  • Copywriter: Writes and edits content, including the subject line
  • Marketing specialist: Pulls the email list from a source, such as Salesforce or a different customer relationship management (CRM) tool

Once each member of your team has completed their assigned task, they should send it to you for review. You then put all the pieces together and schedule the email campaign for deployment.

Does the above campaign sound like one you’d run? If so – and if you don’t yet have a CRM tool or you’re looking to switch platforms – consider our picks for the best CRM software. You can also read our Salesforce CRM review to see why this platform is our top pick for small businesses.

3 elements of delegation

There are three main aspects of delegating responsibility, known as the elements of delegation:

  1. Authority: This refers to the right of a manager to direct employees to perform certain tasks within the scope of their team’s purview. This means the manager has authority over the subordinate. Prior to assigning tasks, managers need to use their authority to assess the skills of their subordinates and be aware that sometimes subordinates require training. As an authority figure, you also need to act like a leader and avoid micromanaging.
  2. Responsibility: This is the obligation a subordinate has to successfully complete the duties they are assigned. A management figure is passing a certain level of trust to a subordinate to complete tasks effectively.
  3. Accountability: For successful delegation, subordinates need to be accountable for the tasks they are assigned. With or without the help of a delegation tool, subordinates should provide managers with updates on their workflow. Managers also need to be accountable for the direction they provide; if directions are not clear, managers can’t expect subordinates to be successful.

How to delegate effectively

graphic of a businessperson in front of a computer screen that says New Entries

1. Utilize delegation tools.

To make it easier to manage workers and keep track of deadlines without micromanaging, you can use project management software for effective delegation. A few such programs are Asana, Basecamp and Trello. You’ll have dozens of other choices as you choose project management software for your organization. 

2. Master core delegation skills.

When delegating, you need to be clear with your expectations and vision for the tasks at hand. Good, clear communication that includes explicit instructions goes a long way. When sending delegation emails, try using a call to action in your subject line (such as “Newsletters Proofreading Review Needed”). 

In the body of your email, lay out your expectations, including a deadline. Along with excellent communication and clear expectations, valuable delegation skills include providing support and following up. Always let your team know when they do a good job and thank them.

3. Teach.

You can’t always assume that your subordinates know something or can figure it out. It’s your job as an authority figure to teach your employees new skills. The more your employees know, the more they can take off your plate later.

3 types of tasks you should be delegating

1. Tedious tasks that don’t impact growth

Everything you and your team members do is important to the overall function of the business. However, supply shopping, data entry, file organization, clerical work and other administrative tasks aren’t what drives growth for your company. These are typically simple assignments that don’t require much experience, and while you could easily complete them yourself, you’ll save time by delegating them to your workers.

“Part of my job as a manager is to ensure the workload is spread evenly to deliver results on time,” said Dan Westmoreland, former director of inbound marketing at Deputy. “The No. 1 delegation mistake managers make is not delegating enough.”

However, he added, this does not apply to more complicated, role-sensitive tasks, like hiring new talent or overseeing financial affairs. Delegation will help you save time for those responsibilities.

2. Tasks that drain you of passion

When you were at a lower level than you are now, you likely had certain tasks that you weren’t motivated to do. Since you’ve paid your dues, you may now look to your team to take on those same assignments.

However, you don’t want your employees to feel drained either. While you might pass some of these duties off to your staff to alleviate your mental and emotional strain, make sure you aren’t just passing the stress to them.

“If you aren’t sure who to delegate the task to, present the task to a group of your co-workers, and openly ask who might be the best to handle it,” said Westmoreland. Different workers have different interests; what’s demanding to one person might be a walk in the park to another.

3. Tasks that someone else can do better than you

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Being a leader doesn’t automatically make you the right person for a project. Your staff members have their own talents, some of which can fill in your gaps, so you must be humble enough to see and admit that someone else might be a better fit for a task than you are.

“Your job as a manager is to develop people,” said Westmoreland. “Delegation is the means by which you bring out the very best in the people that you have. Each employee has their own unique skill set, personality and strengths. Making good use of their unique working personalities will result in more overall efficiency, and people excel at work they enjoy doing.”

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Properly delegating involves avoiding tedious, low-level tasks and work you don’t enjoy. It also involves assigning other people tasks that they can do better than you.

Delegation might not always be easy, but it’s always key

Delegation can be hard for managers and business owners, but it’s essential for productivity. As a leader, doing everything on your own is difficult. Instead, learn to lean on your team and trust them to get the job done. As a result, you’ll see that your company can accomplish more without bogging you down.

Max Freedman and Sammi Caramela also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Marisa Sanfilippo, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Marisa Sanfilippo is an award-winning advertising and marketing expert who uses her skills and hands-on experience to help a variety of companies — perhaps most notably, finance-focused businesses — attract customers, generate revenue and strengthen their brands. She advises and executes on top marketing strategies and tactics for email and social media marketing, print marketing, events, partnerships and more. Sanfilippo's expertise has been tapped by companies like First Financial Credit Union, McGraw Credit Union, Priority Payments Local and iink Payments. She has hosted webinars and in-person workshops to educate business owners on marketing best practices and works with RevGenius, a group that brings together sales, marketing and customer success professionals to trade tips on B2B go-to-market strategies geared toward scaling SaaS companies.
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