In a nutshell, managers need to delegate to get things done. But, if used wisely, delegation has additional advantages. It can enrich the work of your staff, develop their management skills, instil in them a sense of commitment to the organisation’s goals, reveal to you their previously undisclosed talents, and prepare them for advancement. Delegation can indeed be a rewarding tool for staff development – provided you adhere to a number of important principles…

Do you sometimes feel like this?

Do you sometimes feel like this?

1. Try not to delegate only to the most capable people.

Resist the temptation to delegate only to the most capable staff members. Certainly the strong will get stronger – but the weak will only get weaker. By distributing assignments widely, you will be building a team of versatile performers and a handy group to have when emergencies arise.

When delegating to someone who has less than ideal experience, skills, or knowledge, select at least an individual willing to learn (with some help) how to do the job. In this way people develop, and staff development should be one of your major aims whenever you delegate.

2. Select assignments that will stretch your staff.

The purpose of developmental delegation is to build staff confidence in handling unfamiliar tasks, though the aim is ill-served if they fail on the first attempt. Delegate more than just ‘jobs’: motivate staff by delegating tasks that are interesting, and challenging – but not to breaking point.

3. Treat any foul-up as a learning experience.

An effective way to develop staff is to let them make mistakes on their own. If the consequences aren’t too great, watch them do it wrong the first time; they’ll appreciate the right way the next time. If they foul up an assignment, don’t make a big issue of the failure. If you punish learning behaviour, you paralyse staff members and undermine their confidence. If they fear reprimands and criticism, they’ll take fewer risks and ultimately perform poorly. To guard against foul-ups, remember to assign tasks only where success is probable, and always first take the time to check that your delegated assignment is clearly understood.

4. Recognise those teaching moments.

When staff members come to you with insightful questions or opinions, they are willing to expand their horizons and learn new skills. This is precisely when the teaching moment becomes the delegation moment. As Calano and Salzman write: ‘Training and delegation are two sides of the coin. By developing a sensitivity to teaching moments, you will become a far more effective delegator – and leader.’

5. Know that you’ll always be a role model.

Ensure that you function as an effective role model: your staff will normally follow your example. Research shows that staff initially learn how to organise, make decisions, manage time, deal with crises, run meetings, and handle problems by observing their managers.


But don’t be this type of role model!

6. Show confidence in the ability of your staff to carry out the assignment.

You must believe in, support, and help your subordinates succeed with their delegated assignments. If you trust staff enough to delegate projects in the first place, that trust must be continued until the project is complete. Display your trust by word and deed – by not continually looking over their shoulders, or interfering with their methods, or berating them when they stumble. In time, their confidence, sense of responsibility, and powers of judgement will grow, and you will be able to trust them with more demanding and responsible tasks.

7. Lay the foundations of success.

If you want to delegate to develop the managerial skills of your staff and to improve their performance and ability to carry out more responsible work, you must also adhere to certain key ground rules. Among them are the following:

  • Delegate the objective, not the procedure. You are interested in the result, so let them do it their way, provided they are clear about the required outcome. Offer to help – but don’t insist that they adopt your methods.
  • Delegate authority, not just responsibility. Authority is needed to get a job done, but first set the limits – budget, deadlines, resources, and the other parameters of their authority.
  • Establish standards of performance. The final result will reflect on you, so help yourself and the delegate by setting your standards beforehand.
  • Delegate but don’t abdicate. Remember that accountability rests with you. Monitor the task through periodic feedback. Offer help only if it is asked for or warranted.
  • Give credit for tasks well done. You look good when a delegated task turns out well. So, by letting your staff shine, you and the organisation will both benefit.

If you would like to develop more skills like these, completing an online qualification might be just what you’re looking for. We offer a wide variety of qualifications including Certificate IV in Small Business Management, Certificate IV in Frontline Management, Certificate IV in Governance, Diploma of Business, Diploma of Management, Advanced Diploma of Project Management and Advanced Diploma of Civil Construction. Or, if you are interested in improving specific skills, we offer short courses including Coaching and Mentoring Skills, Change Management Skills, Meeting Management Skills and Time Management Skills. If any of these interest you, please feel free to contact us on 1800 998 500 or email us at [email protected]