Delegation is the assignment of responsibility or authority to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities. It is one of the core concepts of management leadership. However, the person who delegates the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work.
Delegation empowers a subordinate to make decisions — i.e. it is a shift of decision-making authority from one organizational level to a lower one. Delegation, if properly done, is not abdication. The opposite of effective delegation is micromanagement, where a manager provides too much input, direction, and review of delegated work. In general, delegation is good and can save money and time and help in building skills and motivating people. It is all too easy to try and do every job yourself, particularly if you feel that it would take longer to explain how to do the job to someone else rather than just do it yourself but proper and effective delegation is probably the single most important management skill that any travel agency owner can acquire, if they are to manage their own business in the medium to long term.
- Decide what to delegate
If you’re just dipping your toes in the delegating water, start with a small project, or one that doesn’t have to be completed in a specific way. Don’t assign your most critical, time-sensitive tasks, and leave ample time for mistakes to happen (that means don’t pass off something at 5 PM on Thursday when it needs to be back on your desk first thing Friday morning). Most importantly, never delegate something you’re not willing to do yourself—that’s the fastest way to lose your staff’s respect.
- Communicate clearly
Open, clear communication from the outset is absolutely crucial to ensuring that the projects you delegate will be done well. From the very beginning of the task/project, be up-front about your expectations, including timeline, and give your staff all of the information they need to achieve those goals. It can be helpful to put everything in writing or provide people with a template or guidelines for the task/project—the more direction you give them, the more likely they’ll come back with what you’re looking for.
- Explain the reasons
You must explain why the job or responsibility is being delegated. And why to that person or people? What is its importance and relevance? Where does it fit in the overall scheme of things?
- Check in, but don’t be overbearing
Once you delegate a task, give your staff flexibility on how they get it done (unless, of course, there’s a specific protocol or procedure). Dominating a project with an overbearing presence doesn’t encourage anyone to succeed—and certainly won’t win you any ‘Boss of the Year’ nominations. But do check in periodically to make sure everyone is on the right track and to offer to answer questions as needed. Try using systems like shared Google docs and spreadsheets or having periodic team meetings to keep everyone on the same page and moving forward.
- Be patient and understanding
While delegating will take work off your plate in the long run, be prepared to take extra time out of your schedule and answer lots of questions at the beginning. Just be patient—as you learn how your staff work best, and as they learn your expectations, things will get easier.
- Share in rewards and give credit where due
Taking all of the credit for a project that others assisted with is a great way to make sure they’ll never want to help you out again. Be sure to recognize and thank anyone who’s helped you out. Give public credit when they succeed. If something goes wrong, withhold blame so they don’t becoming defensive, and instead help them debrief mistakes and learn from them.
- Don’t take it back.
Require them to first propose their own ideas for solutions when they come to you with a problem. When they ask you for the answer, it is tempting to take on their work. If they have the skills but are lacking confidence or motivation, coach them. Don’t take it back unless it is absolutely clear that the situation has become too complex.
- Maintain accountability.
Although the person reporting directly to you has the responsibility for seeing the job well done and the authority to make needed decisions, remember that the ultimate accountability remains with you.
- Delegate consistently.
Delegate consistently — not just when you are overloaded or when tasks are unpleasant.