Taking delegation a few steps further.

Guest blog by Janet Burton, 9th August 2016

Editorial note.  Janet Burton is a co-trainer on our RiverRhee Introduction to Management course.  I asked her if she would be willing to write a blog on one of the aspects that we cover, and she chose delegation, a topic that we explore on day 3 of the course.  What Janet has written takes the content from the course a few steps further…

Taking delegation a few steps further

When managers come on our Introduction to Management courses, we help them to handle their new responsibilities of allocating tasks and achieving their own and their team objectives. They need to delegate. This can be fairly straightforward, if they follow the guidelines and understand the benefits of the delegation process.  However, there can be circumstances where delegation is not straight forward.

delegation without authority

Delegating upwards and sideways can be challenging. Often bosses and colleagues will not be responsive to someone not in the direct line of command. Someone (you) who is expecting them to stop their own work and help!

One of our delegates found that no matter what approach he took to getting information from colleagues, they failed to respond. This happened time and time again, even though he was polite and patient. He explained to me that it was their job to supply him with information and that their tardiness held up his work and compromised his results.

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The delegation guide

So, it is isn’t easy delegating without authority but it can be done.

First, let’s look at the Delegation Guide

  1. Identify the Task
  2. Choose the right person for the job
  3. Explain the task, timings, and extent of the job
  4. Check understanding and commitment
  5. Agree deadlines and follow up
  6. Once completed, appreciate and communicate the results

making it mutually beneficial

Aim for a mutually beneficial start (Identify the task and choose the right person).

There are several ways to approach the right person with the task:

  • Sell them the concept and outcome
  • Ask for their help with their expertise and skill set
  • Assume they will cooperate because it is their job
  • Ask for a favour…not recommended!

planning for the best outcome

Plan for the best outcome (the task, timings, and extent of the job).

The secret is in the planning. You will be encroaching on the time that they might otherwise use to achieve their own objectives, so you need to sell the idea. Anticipate what they might say in response to your request so that you are ready with a mutually beneficial reason for their help.

You need to outline the job with the timescales and anticipated outcomes.   Negotiate the desired results, the timing and the benefits. Also, in the negotiation, there may be something you can do for them which, with your skill set, you could easily do.

checking for understanding

Negotiate (Check understanding and commitment).

When discussing the extent of the work, you need to check that they know exactly what you expect of them. There must be no confusion as confusion can lead to the job being left unattended. Don’t ask “Do you understand?” as the stock answer is likely to be “Yes” even if they don’t. Check understanding by asking questions such as “So when (this) happens, I would expect (that) to be the result, what do you think?” Ask, “What process will you adopt and how long do you think that will take?” These questions do not insult the colleague or superior’s intelligence but shows your understanding of what they must do and enables you to show your appreciation.

keeping in touch

Monitor (check progress).

When negotiating the deadline, appreciate their own workload, but be firm about your scheduled needs. Build monitoring devices into the timetable, for instance ask them to send you emails for any clarification needed or to supply you with information by such and such a time.  Schedule a meeting to assess progress and to check if more resources are needed.

Once delegation has occurred, there is a very firm and sensible rule to follow – never take the delegated task back again. If you have delegated correctly, you will not be tempted to say “OK leave it with me, I’ll do it myself”

showing your appreciation

Reward (appreciate their efforts).

Finally, the job is done and you are delivered of a successful project or task. Thank the person, don’t hold back. They have worked their butts off for you and you need to give them a big smile and a huge “Thank You”.

about the author

Janet Burton is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting who uses her experience of training and management to help people develop their skills, enhance their confidence and change for the better.  Her unique style is an inspirational combination of laughter and learning.  Janet’s experience enables her to understand the challenges for organisations across varied industries and disciplines.  She has run her own sales and marketing business, has worked in the recruitment and stationery wholesaling industries, and has operated in sales and marketing for major food manufacturers.


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

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