June 23, 2021

Leadership Skills: Delegating Tasks

When it comes to supervising, there’s a saying about the “80% rule” that if someone can do a task 80% as well as you can, delegate it. Do you consider that when supervising people and projects?

Although the power to make employment decisions is part of the responsibilities of any supervisor, it is also important to not hold on to power at all costs. In addition to distributing work, delegating can play a central role in developing employees. There is no right level of authority to delegate. It depends on the experience and track record of the employee and the urgency, complexity, and impact of the assignment.

Engaging in teamwork better achieves the city’s goals. Simply put, delegation is an essential part of management. Delegation also has benefits for the team. For example, delegation may:

  • Provide developmental opportunities for employees; and
  • Increase an employee’s ownership of city challenges and credit when achieving results.

However, if a supervisor is choosing to delegate certain tasks to an employee, then that supervisor must ensure that the employee has the necessary authority and skills to complete the task.

If a supervisor does not fully delegate a task, then he or she may not hold that employee fully responsible for the results. Even if a task is fully delegated, a supervisor can never shirk responsibility for a failure in completion or in outcome.

When a supervisor does not want to fully delegate a task but thinks that exposure to a particular task could present a developmental opportunity for an employee, then the supervisor should work closely with the employee to provide feedback and, if necessary, coaching on how to better accomplish the task or a portion of the task. With those things in mind, there are some simple things to consider in the delegation process. 

  • Does the staff know what task is needed and why it is important? 
  • Does my staff have enough information to get the job done properly and in a timely manner? 
  • Does the employee(s) have the authority and skills needed to accomplish the job? 
  • Does the employee know my updated expectations and the deadline for completion? 
  • Does the staff understand how this project fits in with their other duties and assignments? 
  • Does the staff have the resources they will need to finish the assignment, or at least know where to get them when needed? 

The goal of any project is to be successful. As a supervisor, the goal is also to help make employees successful!

There are also several things that supervisors need to make clear on the front end of any project. Here is a process as you start a project.

Tell the Employee:

Deliverable: The result you want and why it matters.

Deadline: When you want it.

Check-in: How frequently you want to be updated.

Authority: How far the employee can go on their own.

Ask the employee:

What obstacles they anticipate encountering?

How this task fits with their other priorities?

What resources they need?

How confident they are in completing the task on time?

Everyone has a different style. Those in supervisory roles need to be honest about their own individual strengths and weaknesses and how best to leverage them with those people that they supervise.

Like any other part of a job, learning how to be a good supervisor takes time and experience, but by focusing on a process, supervisors and their employees can perform quality work and increase accountability.