In the Nursing Council of New Zealand’s guidelines on delegation there are five rules which I would like to share with you.

  1. Right activity – here the manager needs to ensure that the activity needs to be done now by the team.  Before this decision the manager should ask, “Could this activity be abandoned?” and “Should this activity be carried out by another department?” Having determined that it is an appropriate activity the manager then is required to divide the activity into manageable tasks.
  2. Right circumstances – This means the manager ensures that the timing is right.  There is no point writing a report that management are not ready to decide on.  Nor is it appropriate to delegate a task that the manager themselves has not done or had exposure to.  In addition, the resources required for the task should be at hand.
  3. Right person – the manager selects the right person ensuring that they have the ability to do the task and that you are prepared to accept their output. You can delegate tasks that will challenge staff, but the task should be within their capability. Peter Drucker, the father of management, warned us never to give a new recruit a new project. One which was new to the organisation’s staff and thus creating concern and instability. He referred to these jobs as “widow makers”, jobs where an external appointment did not have a chance to succeed as it was high risk and thus requiring a well-liked and trusted inhouse project leader.
  4. Right communication – here the manager invests time giving a clear description of the task, in an unhurried manner.  Quite the reverse of the time poor manager’s delegation that is a brief incoherent instruction.  The right communication involves a clear understanding of the objectives and expected outcomes of the task, the expected depth of research and liaison with stakeholders, the start and expected end date, a guideline of the significance of the activity to the team and organisation and finally the budget constraint. At this point we need to explain what degree of autonomy the subordinate has with decision making. Susan Scott’s decision tree model can be used to make it clear what are the:
  • Leaf Decisions: those decisions they can make without having to account for them.
  • Branch Decisions: those decisions which they can make but need to comment on in the next one-to-one session with you.
  • Trunk Decisions: those decisions they need to discuss with you before they take action
  • Root Decisions: those decisions that you need to be informed about early on so you are part of the decision process e.g. decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm to the organization.
  1. Right monitoring & feedback – here the manager will, during walkabouts, pop into the subordinate’s work area and see how things are progressing, having time to talk about problems and making sure the monkey stays with the subordinate. Jack Welch, Peter Drucker, Jim Collins have all talked about the importance of recognition and celebration. Welch went on to say, “Work is too much a part of life not to recognize moments of achievement.” It is worth remembering recognitions are more powerful if they are given publicly whereas reprimands should always be done privately.

This is part of a leadership toolkit that can be purchased from here