What is Delegation of Authority and How Do You Improve Your Delegation Skills?

Let’s talk about delegation. What is delegation of authority, and how can you benefit from better delegation skills? In this post, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of delegation and share strategies to help you improve your delegation skills.

If you manage or run a business, you know that delegating authority isn’t easy. Your business is your baby. Can you really trust important tasks to anyone other than yourself? The answer is a resounding YES! No one can run a business completely by themselves—that’s why you have employees, accountants, business advisors, and what have you. The success of your business depends on a dedicated team of people, all working toward the same goal.


 

What is Delegation of Authority?

So, what does delegated authority mean exactly? It’s not as complicated as it sounds. To delegate authority means to divide tasks and decision making responsibilities amongst your team. A manager, team leader, or business owner can’t do everything themselves, so they divide the work across a team of trusted individuals with expertise in different areas who can carry out the tasks as they see fit.

What is Delegation of Authority?

The Pros and Cons of Delegation

By delegating authority, business owners and team leaders optimize efficiency and foster a culture of accountability within their organization. Productivity isn’t impeded by having to run everything by the big boss, and by placing trust in your team, you allow them to take ownership of their own successes and failures and invest more of themselves into the business.

But if you don’t like the idea of surrendering control over any aspect of your business, the delegation of authority and responsibility to your employees may be an intimidating prospect.

Here are a few common pros and cons of delegation.

Pros of Delegation Cons of Delegation
  • Workplace trust, communication, and team morale are boosted.
  • Employee confidence, creativity, and innovation are all increased.
  • Accountability is enhanced throughout the workplace.
  • Efficiency is increased.
  • Employees are intrinsically motivated to complete tasks.
  • Micromanagement is reduced.
  • The workload is balanced across the team.
  • Employee retention is improved.
  • Employees have the opportunity to grow and develop new skills.
  • Business owners and team leaders have more time to focus on higher-level tasks
  • The quality of work may suffer.
  • Delegating involves mentoring and coaching, which takes time.
  • Delegating means business owners lose some control over outcomes.
  • You can delegate authority, not responsibility—the person delegating the tasks is still ultimately responsible for their success or failure.
  • Employees may not want more responsibility.
  • Handing someone authority may cause them to misuse it, negatively impacting team morale and leading to misunderstandings and conflict.

 

What Happens When You Don’t Delegate

Sometimes it’s easier to just do something yourself. If you have children, for example, and you delegate them the authority to wash the dishes, very likely, they will not be washed to the standard you expect. In order to effectively delegate that responsibility, you need to show your child how to wash the dishes, which will take a lot more time in the short term than it takes to wash the dishes yourself.

But do you have the time to cook and clean and wash? When are you supposed to get your own work done or take any time for yourself? If you don’t take the time to teach your children these important skills, everything will always depend on you, and the more time you spend on menial tasks, the less you’ll be able to accomplish. On the other hand, if you take the time to teach your children how to do the dishes, that’s one task you can strike from your mind.

What Happens When You Don’t Delegate

The same is true of organizations and businesses. There are a lot of moving parts within an organization, and if each task needs to be overseen by one person, no matter how phenomenal that person is, productivity will slow. Employees won’t be as invested in the success of the business because they won’t be able to identify themselves or their hard work within that success. And the less attached an employee feels to an organization, the more likely they’ll be to leave.

While delegating authority has its challenges, not trusting your team members leads to low morale, inefficiency, higher turnover, lack of innovation and creativity, and increased resentment.


 

How to be Better at Delegation

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Build Trust

You can’t effectively delegate authority without trust, but trust doesn’t just happen. In order to build trust, you must get to know the people on your team and let them get to know you, and this needs to be done intentionally—especially if you have a remote team. Investing in team building activities boosts team trust and morale, enhances employee engagement, and improves team collaboration and communication. Team building activities can take many forms, from virtual escape rooms to group personality tests to lunch and learns.

The more you trust your team, the more comfortable you’ll be with communicating and collaborating with them, which makes delegating authority much less intimidating. Take the time to build trust with your team so that your team feels like a team. Instead of handing a task to someone you’re not completely sure of, you’re giving authority to a team member you have absolute confidence in.

📚 Learn more about How to Build Trust in the Workplace.

A culture of Accountability

Cultivate a Culture of Accountability

If each of an employee’s tasks is taken away from them by their manager, is the employee still accountable for that task’s success or failure? If they’re never handed the authority to complete a task, how can that employee feel accountable for any business outcome?

A team isn’t a team if only one of its members is accountable for a success or failure. Regularly delegating authority to different members of your team allows each member to feel like an integral part of the organization. If each team member knows exactly what is expected of them and what is expected of every other team member, they can keep themselves as well as each other accountable.

When each member of your team feels accountable for the business’s success or failure, you don’t have to worry about whether or not your employees can handle the authority you’re giving them because your success is their success.

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Teach Instead of Doing

Teaching gives back to others. If we go back to the example of showing your children how to do the dishes, by delegating tasks and showing them how to complete those tasks, you set your children up for success in adulthood. It’s the same for your employees—the more you help them learn, develop new skills, and take on more responsibilities, the more qualified they’ll be to oversee larger aspects of the organization—and the more loyal they’ll be to your business.

What kind of workplace is an employee more likely to stay with: the one where they didn’t learn anything, were completely disengaged, and were micromanaged at every turn, or the one that took the time to help them develop and grow both professionally and personally?

It may take more time up front, but it’s worth it in the long run. Delegating and coaching is a true sign of a transformational leader , and as your team learns to take on more and more responsibilities, your efforts will pay off tenfold.

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Let Go: Failure is a Learning Opportunity

It can be tough to let go of tasks, especially when you believe you’ll do the task better. In order to gain the benefits of delegation, you need to be able to let go. Yes, this could result in an employee making a mistake, but without failure, no one in your organization will be able to learn and grow.

It will take time for your team to develop their skills, which may negatively impact your business in the short term, but in the long run, delegating authority to different members of your team will result in a team that’s jam-packed with skilled, confident, and creative individuals—all of whom will be grateful they had someone like you who gave them the freedom to fail and learn from their mistakes.

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Understand Communication Preferences

Delegating work needs to be done with finesse. Many people get their backs up when told to do something, especially if the message isn’t communicated properly.

Understand that how you delegate is just as important as making the time to delegate. And everyone is different! What works best for one team member may not work for another. Get to know each of your team members' communication and personality traits so that you can delegate effectively. Does your team member prefer bold and direct requests, or do they prefer a softer tone and a bit of small talk before being asked to complete a task?

At Blue Summit Supplies, we took the DiSC personality assessment to better understand how each of us naturally communicates. We’re also big fans of Enneagrams, which have provided our team with invaluable insight into how to improve communication and collaboration across our organization.

💡 Utilizing the Enneagram in Workplace Situations: A Guide for Managers

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Incentivize New Responsibilities

How can you get employees excited about assuming additional responsibilities? You can't expect your team to want to take on endless new tasks and responsibilities without recognizing their additional workload. Employee recognition is key here, and depending on the newly delegated responsibilities, it may be time for a bonus or promotion.

But it’s not just about extrinsic motivation. The more engaged your employees are with the work they do, the more intrinsically motivated they’ll be to take on extra authority and responsibility. Employees must be able to relate the success of the business to their own success.


 

More from Blue Summit Supplies

💡 How to Improve Your Rational Decision Making Skills

💡 Understanding the 5 Conflict Styles for Different Situations and Personalities

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan works remotely, from home or abroad, on projects that increase brand awareness, online engagement, and website traffic. She specializes in clear and concise writing that helps businesses conquer their online messaging. Through human-centered content, she aims to delight both human readers and Google bots. Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Mad Men or Game of Thrones.

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