Delegation: The Process
September 30, 2019
In their book, Leaders: The Strategies of Taking Charge, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus explain this important principle as “empowerment.”
[Leaders] empower others to translate intention into reality and sustain it. This does not mean that leaders must relinquish power, or that followers must continually challenge authority. It does mean that power must become a unit of exchange—an active, changing token in creative, productive, and communicative transactions. Effective leaders will ultimately reap the human harvest of their efforts by the simple action of power’s reciprocal: empowerment.
The essential thing in organizational leadership is that the leader’s style pulls rather than pushes people on. A pull style of influence works by attracting and energizing people to an exciting vision of the future. It motivates by identification, rather than through rewards and punishments.
For people to “translate intention into reality and sustain it,” they must fully understand the job you are asking them to do and the parameters in which they can work.
Here are six important steps in the process of delegation.
- Explain the vision.
Paint the big picture. Explain how the “part” you are asking a person to do fits into the “whole.” There are many mundane aspects in every task. But people are energized when they know they are involved in “an exciting vision of the future.”
- Define the task.
What exactly are you asking the person to do? Leaders often get frustrated when people don’t get a certain thing done. Then they find out the person had no idea what they were supposed to do. Failure to define the task results an incomplete job or a person taking on much more than you intended.
- Explain the goal.
What should the outcome look like? How long should it take to get it done?
- Establish the standards of measurement.
How will progress be measured? How will you hold those pursuing the task accountable?
- Set a time frame.
If you are delegating a project, work with the person to establish a time line and completion date. If you are delegating ministry, give a start and stop date.
- Establish “check-in” dates.
Set time to meet in order to evaluate progress and provide support. Delegation is not abdication. The leader is still involved in the process and finally responsible for the outcome.
 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. Leaders: The Strategies For Taking Charge (Harper and Row: New York, 1985) 80.