How to Delegate Authority: A Guide on Team Optimization

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Most businesses use teams to help break down the essential elements of running a business into more manageable parts. Teams help a company approach tasks with a unified effort and can be much more efficient than the same number of people working separately. By learning when and where to give control to other employees, you can help improve a business's model and increase efficiency. In this article, we explain how to delegate authority, discuss different approaches to delegation, and then list the benefits of delegating.

How to delegate authority

Learning how to delegate authority is primarily about identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both yourself and those you directly manage. Importantly, delegating authority doesn't always mean you cannot have the final say on important projects. The amount of authority granted can vary, depending on a task's requirements and your assigned duties. The process of delegating authority usually goes as follows:

Understand the strengths of those around you

The first step in the delegation process is to better understand the overall abilities of potential candidates you may wish to empower. Be aware that besides the more apparent expertise needed for a task, such as electrical engineering proficiency, you also want to assess their ability to act independently. This is even more important if you aren't only giving them autonomy over a particular aspect of the business, but also giving them authority over other employees. Even talented candidates do not always want a leadership role, or they may require more experience before heading teams.

Related: Guide: 16 Personality Types

Identify tasks and duties in which you're non-essential

The next step is identifying tasks and duties that don't necessarily require you. Pay close attention to aspects of your current workload that take up large amounts of time or where you feel another employee's expertise might improve results. Developing an ability to admit when another person heading a project or handling a specific duty might make the company more efficient is important as a leader. A leader's goal isn't to master and manage every aspect of a business. Instead, it is their goal to optimize that business using the people and resources available.

Carefully select tasks and duties to assign

Once you've developed a list of potential areas to delegate authority, it's time to select some of those items to take to the next stage of the process. Usually, it isn't efficient to assign every item on your list. This is because much like you have limited time and resources to dedicate to tasks, so do other employees. The goal is generally keeping a business running efficiently and with as little room for error as is reasonably possible. The less overwhelmed employees feel, yourself included, the better a business runs.

One set of items on the list to pay attention to are tasks you know for certain another employee might handle better. Imagine, for example, a senior marketer running a large project to promote a new engine to manufacturers. While they may have authority over all stages of this project, appealing to manufacturers might require explaining specific innovations about the engine. It makes sense to identify an employee with an engineering degree, or at least a large amount of technical knowledge, to lead those aspects of the project.

Choose a suitable candidate to give authority

At this stage in the process, select the candidate you feel is best for the task. For tasks that may involve small groups or only require one individual, it's usually best to select the person with the most immediate expertise in what the task requires. If a person has experience or a degree in a relevant field and others don't, that usually signals they can handle the task.

Work involving leading teams is slightly different, as the authority you're assigning now comes with another layer of responsibility. In many cases, a person who can unite a team and best make use of their individual talents is a better option than someone with more technical expertise. This is because leaders don't necessarily solve problems themselves but instead use the team they lead to solve issues together. There are limits but, as long as the leader is knowledgeable enough to understand their team's work, a strong ability to lead is important.

Related: Guidelines on Effective Leadership in the Workplace

Thoroughly explain the person's new duties and your expectations

Once you have found your ideal candidate, have a conversation with them about your plans. Listen to their input, especially if they feel they may not be the best option or have some concerns. Work together to help them understand their new duties and powers, such as the ability to personally sign off on particular decisions. You also want to discuss the limits of their authority, so they know what they can and cannot do.

At that point, discuss your overall expectations. Explaining deadlines and any metrics you expect them to meet, such as a certain number of sales, helps keep them informed and the transition more smooth. When giving someone power over important projects or many team members, also discuss meeting with them within one or two weeks to hear their thoughts on the new role. Many managers might do this for smaller projects too, as it helps correct any potential issues early and with minimal impact.

Practise patience and foster improvement

Once you give authority over to another person, remember that at least some elements of their job have changed. In some cases, such as being given authority over a major project, their job may be so different that they may have to switch to a new title. It may take time for them to reach peak efficiency, but nearly all employees can grow and learn. With some time, even an employee who isn't immediately more efficient can eventually surpass expectations in their duties, which is the ultimate goal of delegating authority.

Helping employees develop and broaden their skills is an important part of long-term growth. This is especially true when discussing the delegation of authority because being authoritative is a significant part of management and other senior positions. An employee who understands a company's business model and can use authority wisely can eventually help a company make high-level decisions and find potential areas of improvement.

Related: Understanding and Developing Team Members' Roles

Ways to delegate authority

There are several ways you can transfer responsibilities to employees depending on the needs of your workplace. You can use the following types of delegation of authority to assign tasks to various team members in the workplace:

  • Departments: You can delegate the supervision of a particular department to another employee. For example, a CEO can delegate authority over an entire marketing department to the marketing director.

  • Projects: You can assign an employee or group of employees to complete a specific project from start to finish. With the marketing department, the marketing director can assign an advertising campaign to the project manager, who assembles a team of copywriters and designers to collaborate on the project.

  • Decision making: You can give one of your employees the power to make certain decisions so that you can focus on other work. For example, as a marketing director, you can delegate authority to the assistant marketing director to hire employees for the department when needed.

  • Analysis: When you need more information, you can ask employees to complete detailed research on the topic. If you're a marketing project manager, you can ask the department's analysts to research demographic statistics for their advertising campaign's intended audience.

  • Administrative processes: You may also delegate administrative tasks, like data entry to other employees. As the marketing manager, for instance, you may assign client communications such as scheduling meetings and follow-up emails to a marketing assistant.

In any of these categories, the delegation of authority may be temporary or ongoing. Employees complete temporary tasks on a one-time or short-term basis, while ongoing tasks involve long-term responsibilities that become an essential part of the employee's role.

Related: 4 Delegation Skills for Success and How to Improve Them

The benefits of delegation

When done wisely, this process can benefit you, other employees, and the business as a whole through:

  • Increased productivity. A person can only perform one task at a time. Delegation helps keep tasks spread out so that a business can handle many tasks simultaneously, which increases productivity.

  • Continuity. If you're busy with other tasks or absent from work, other employees can complete some or all of your duties to ensure continued productivity and efficiency.

  • Employee development. When you delegate tasks to your team members, employees get a chance to improve their skills and demonstrate their abilities in a specific area, such as leadership and interpersonal skills.

  • Employee motivation. Employees may be more driven to perform at their best when trusted with new responsibilities.

  • Career growth opportunities. Delegating tasks to lower-level employees provides them with the experience and skills development needed for potential promotions within the organization.

Related: How to Delegate Tasks at Work (With Tips and Definition)

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