The Key Principles of Effective Delegation

14 July 2021

Delegation is a skill. It isn’t just a case of assigning tasks to others or even passing the buck, as many may often see it. It is a crucial skill to have throughout the management team of any business so that tasks flow and progress is made efficiently.

In this article, I want to run through the art of delegation, including some common issues when it comes to delegation, why it is sometimes hard to delegate and what true delegation really entails.

Why people don’t delegate enough?

There are numerous reasons why people don’t like to delegate, some more relevant than others. However, these are the factors that you need to surpass if you want to ensure good productivity and trust builds within your team.

Some of the reasons you might come across are as follows:

  • It would take longer to explain the task than to complete it yourself
  • Lack confidence or trust in the person you need to delegate to
  • You believe you are the only one that can do the job
  • Willing to delegate but worried the team has too much they are responsible for already
  • You enjoy the task, so don’t want to reassign it
  • Afraid that it may seem like you can’t handle your workload or are incompetent in some way
  • Feel guilt about adding to another employees workload.

The difference between delegation and allocation

In order to understand the art of delegation and how you can perfect it, you need to have a firm understanding of the difference between delegating to someone and just allocating tasks.

Allocation – Allocation is giving a set of instructions to an employee, asking them to get it done and to report back to you.

Delegation – Delegation includes elements of authority and accountability. The person undertaking the task receives an amount of authority to take things forward and is accountable for that task and the outcomes.

Given these definitions, there are several layers to the element of accountability and the autonomy that is given when delegating, which you can see below.

The 4 levels of autonomy

Level 1 Autonomy: Research/Admin Tasks

This is more allocation than delegation. You are tasking them with doing some of the legwork but you are relying on them to come back to you with the findings so that you can move forward with it.

Level 2 Autonomy: Decision-making

This is the first stage of delegation, whereby you are giving a certain task to that person and asking them to decide on how to move forward but there is a level of approval needed by yourself, on whether that is the correct course of action or not.

Level 3 Autonomy: Empowered Authority

Empowered Authority is the kind of delegation you may give to a department head, whereby you are giving them the authority to take the task in the direction they see fit and make their own decisions on how to move forward. However, there will still be processes in place, such as regular catch-ups and meetings, where a check-in is done and you can be sure that they are on the right track.

Level 4 Autonomy: Full Autonomy

Here you are giving full autonomy to the person, who has a proven track record and that you trust fully to take things forward however they see fit, with little to no input from you. Outcomes will be presented once complete with full accountability.


5 delegation mindset principles:

principles of delegation mindset


The simple truth is that there is no point in delegating unless you have the right mindset.

There are several key factors that you need to be aware of and be comfortable with, in order for you to perfect the art of delegation.

Sense of value – You need a true sense of the value of the time, resource and economic value in the task, in order to be able to fully realise why delegation needs to come into play. You will also need to understand that, even though it may potentially take more time to explain the task to someone else, it will release your time substantially in the future.

Who Not How – The key concept here is to reset your default mindset to a case of looking at a problem and contemplating who can help you to achieve it most effectively, rather than how you can get it done. This is the kind of next-level thinking that can separate you from the majority of business leaders out there. You can read our review of the book Who Not How here for some more background on this concept.

Failure Tolerance – Being okay to fail is a sense a lot of people lack in certain areas of their lives, however, if you are not failing enough then you are often not trying enough. The same goes for your team, there will be cases where a task is delegated and things don’t work out as well as you would have hoped but that is all part of the learning and development process.

Radical Candour – Sometimes there may be elements of frustration that occur because things are not carried out in the way you want or because outcomes are not exactly as you imagined. If you are not able to confront this frustration and there is a reluctance to address it, then there will be any number of issues that arise as a result. Having a radically candid conversation with the other person will always be appreciated if done with honesty and respect. Being true to what you believe in and genuinely setting out to help the other person is key.

Patience – Needing patience is a given when considering all of the above. It is vital that you can act with patience and tolerance when delegating, given a true sense of value in the task, a genuine desire to help others to progress and develop, being able to deal with it if things don’t evolve how you want them to and being able to give that genuine and honest feedback when needed. You can also read our thoughts on the book Radical Candour here, which is a must-have team management skill.


You can see that delegation is not something that all of us may find easy but it is about a process of learning and adapting so that you can open yourself and your business to even greater potential.

Take a look at the levels of autonomy it is possible to give and consider how these fit within your organisation right now and how your mindset matches the principles of delegation given here.

If there are any areas you think you need to work on, it is important to recognise this and actively try to develop them going forward.

Should you wish to discuss any of the points made here or any other element of team management please feel free to get in touch below, we’d love to chat.

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