Principles of Delegation

Having answered 'yes' to your high-level considerations, you now need to decide how to apply the principles of functional delegation of authority as described by Koontz and O'Donnell:

Principles of delegation

1) Principle of delegation by results expected
The degree of authority delegated to an individual manager should be adequate to assure their ability to accomplish the results expected of them. Without this level of authority, they will be unable to complete the task, as others they need to interact with will hinder their progress due to lack of 'real' authority.

It is essential that as part of the delegation process, you communicate this devolved authority to all necessary parties.

2) Principle of absoluteness of responsibility
It is vital that delegation is not used as way of avoiding or abdicating ultimate responsibility and ownership of tasks. Responsibility for the activities of subordinates, who have been assigned duties, remains at all times with whoever originally delegated the task.

3) Principle of parity of authority and responsibility
The degree of authority that is delegated in conjunction with the task has to be consistent with the level of responsibility and role of the subordinate.

Common Pitfalls
The final step is to consider your own personal feelings and to ensure that you are ready to avoid the common pitfalls of delegation.

Common pitfalls of delegation

Avoid micro-managing the task
'Micro-managing tasks' refers to giving your colleagues the freedom to make decisions, even if you feel you are more skilled at doing so. Many of us have the bad habit of continuing to make decisions once we have delegated a task.

This undermines the authority we have handed over for this task and hinders its actual achievement. It also wastes a considerable amount of your time, which was one of your aims in choosing to delegate a task. It is probably the single biggest cause of dissatisfaction amongst team members.

Take the time to set up adequate controls
To be a successful manager, you will need to establish control systems that give you adequate feedback on the progress of all of the activities that you have delegated, so that you can take the necessary corrective action when needed.

Once these control systems are in place, you can feel secure in your ability to highlight and rectify any mistakes your subordinates could make.

Allow others to make mistakes
It is important to feel secure in the systems and processes you have put in place to retain overall control and receive sound and regular feedback. Mistakes will be made as others learn, but you have to be mindful of these occurring and must allow some contingency to rectify them.

Your best lessons probably came from errors you have made during your career.

For example,

You may have double booked yourself with two equally important tasks and have had to decide how to best overcome this situation.

You have probably had to admit your error to one party to extricate yourself from the double booking.

This sort of avoidable embarrassment is something you only want to experience once so you will avoid carelessness in future.

Koontz and O'Donnell explain it as follows:

'Nobody would let a subordinate make a mistake that could harm the company or the subordinate's position but, the persistent supervision of your subordinates in order to guarantee that they don't make mistakes, makes it completely impossible to delegate authority.

You should allow your subordinates to make mistakes, and the cost of said mistakes should be considered an investment in their personal development.'

You may also be interested in:
Delegation of Authority | The Six Stages of Delegation | Delegation in Management | Monitoring Delegated Tasks | Advantages and Disadvantages of Delegation.

Key Points

  • Focus your efforts on those parts of your work that are the most beneficial to the organization and delegate everything else.
  • If you do decide to delegate a task, then use the three principles of delegation.
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