What Are The Principles Of Delegation? (And How To Delegate)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 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.

Delegation at the workplace is when managers assign tasks to their team members, which helps them to focus on higher-level goals and also makes the members feel empowered and accountable. The objective of delegation of authority is to decrease direct supervision and make the team members more responsible for their work and learning. Knowing about the principles of delegation of authority can help you better understand the delegation process at work. In this article, we answer 'What are the principles of delegation?', explain why it is important and share the steps involved in the delegation process.

What Are The Principles Of Delegation?

The answer to the question, 'What are the principles of delegation?' explains delegation of authority, which focuses on authorisation, responsibility and accountability. Delegation may be full or partial, depending on how much power a supervisor grants to their team members for making independent decisions and taking action. Below are some principles of delegation of authority that a manager may use during the process of delegation:

  • Principle of functional definition: The objective of this principle is to define the task clearly that an individual is required to accomplish. It also focuses on the clarity of methods, expectations, goals and targets.

  • Principle of unity of command: This principle focuses on an individual getting directions from only one supervisor, as receiving instructions from several supervisors may make the process of delegation perplexing. With this, the individual also remains answerable to their leader.

  • Principle of parity of authority and responsibility: This principle involves authority corresponding to responsibility, as the former without the latter may result in an individual's inefficiency. By implementing this principle, a manager may ensure a proper balance between both components.

  • Principle of absoluteness of responsibility: A supervisor can only grant authority to their team members but not responsibility. The latter is the commitment of an individual for which both managers and team members are accountable.

  • Principle of delegation by results: This principle focuses on supervisors determining the final result of a process and, based on that, assigning tasks and delegating authority. Managers may achieve this by coherently defining organisational goals and ensuring that team members align their efforts with these goals.

  • Principle of limitations of authority: To prevent misuse of authority, supervisors may limit the powers of an individual so that they do not misemploy their authority. An efficient way for managers is to develop a written set of guidelines to provide their team members with clear directions.

  • Principle of proper motivation: Even with authority, an individual may not perform tasks that a supervisor delegates to them. With the help of this principle, managers may introduce incentives, helping team members to feel motivated and fulfil their responsibilities with accountability.

  • Principle of effective control: When supervisors establish a system for control, they may be better able to measure the performance of their team members. This allows them to evaluate how an individual implements their authority.

Related: 10 Skills You Need For Team Building (And How To Develop Them)

Importance Of Delegation

Delegation is important for managers and their team members because it can:

  • Allows employees to gain new skills: When a manager delegates tasks that are outside an individual's usual duties, this allows the individual to gain new skills. This skill development enables the employees to find growth in their position and their career.

  • Fosters trust: An employee may feel empowered when their manager shows faith in them to complete a particular task. Trust facilitates strong relationships between leaders and their team members and also improves morale at work.

  • Increases accountability: An employee feels more accountable when managers show confidence in their abilities. To maintain this trust, employees show their diligence and ensure that their actions result in beneficial outcomes.

  • Reduces stress: Managers may often have several high-level goals they are required to accomplish to help organisations achieve their business objectives. When they delegate tasks that are incidental, they allow themselves to manage their schedules better, which can reduce stress.

Related: How To Show Leadership Communication Skills (With Example)

How To Delegate Effectively?

Below are some steps in the delegation process that a manager may follow for effective delegation:

1. Assess before the delegation

When managers conduct assessments of tasks they intend to delegate, it helps them to define the objectives and expectations clearly. It allows them to determine what to accomplish or which team member may be suitable for a specific task. Below is a list of questions to help supervisors efficiently conduct the assessment of delegation:

  • What strengths and abilities do my team members require for accomplishing the task well?

  • What are the resources that I may offer my team members to help them efficiently complete their work?

  • What technical tools the organisation can offer them to help them maximise their productivity?

  • What results do I expect from my team members?

  • Do I have examples that may enable me to define a successful project to help me conduct a performance comparison?

  • Do I really require delegating a larger responsibility to my team members, or can it be beneficial dividing it into smaller goals?

Related: Project Manager Vs. Resource Manager: What Is The Difference?

2. Assign tasks

By utilising the assessment of delegation and goals, a manager may prudently identify the right team members for specific jobs. After this analysis, they may assign different tasks to members. To recognise what tasks they may assign to different team members, a manager may take the help of the following metrics:

  • Skills: Managers can ensure better results when they assign team members tasks that match their skill set. This enables the team members to work independently and deliver their best work, which further enhances their morale and also saves time.

  • Interest: Managers often receive the best results when they assign work to those members who possess the eagerness to apply their skills and experience to tasks they are most interested in accomplishing. Individuals may perform more efficiently when they work on projects that interest them.

  • Time: If an individual already has several tasks to accomplish, assigning more duties to them may not always produce favourable results. A manager who ensures delegation based on availability is better able to accomplish team goals within deadlines.

Related: Examples Of Teamwork Skills (And How To Improve Them)

3. Establish comprehension

Before delegating duties, a manager who conveys the task's objectives and expectations to their team members can better ensure that everybody understands their responsibilities clearly. A manager may also reiterate the requirements before the team members start working on their tasks. To help their team members recognise their responsibilities, the manager may develop a written document that has actionable instructions.

4. Implement SMART goals to support the success

When managers establish specific and actionable goals for their team members, they monitor their performance and progress better. These goals also ensure success for both managers and their teams. Below are the SMART goals for the process of delegation:

  • Specific: Clearly specify the expectations for success. For example, asking team members to upload 15 regional news stories every day that reporters submit.

  • Measurable: Quantify the employee's progress. For example, specify the number of regional stories that a team member may upload to increase the traffic on the website.

  • Attainable: Ensure that the team members have the resources that they may require for completing their tasks within deadlines. For example, high-speed internet connectivity and a robust backend system that allows the team members to quickly and accurately upload the news stories.

  • Relevant: Identify and eliminate unrelated processes to maximise efficiency. For example, asking team members to write stories that match the current news trends.

  • Time-based: Set clear deadlines for team members. For example, giving team members an hour to edit a 500-word news story.

Related: A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Manage Projects (With Tips)

5. Establish commitment

Managers may organise follow-up meetings to confirm the commitment of team members to their respective tasks. This also gives the managers an opportunity to discuss the importance of projects with their team members. During these discussions, managers may also talk about the skills that the team members may gain by completing the upcoming work. Below are some questions a manager may ask to confirm the commitment of their team members:

  • What interests you the most about working on this project?

  • Do you think it can be possible for you to accomplish the tasks within deadlines?

  • What are some benefits of this project for you?

Related: How To Develop Leadership Skills (With Practical Tips)

6. Ensure accountability

A manager's support to their team members results in greater trust and team efficiency. Good managers offer resources to their team members, helping them succeed in their roles. Here are some ways a manager may follow to increase accountability of their delegation:

  • Agree on clear and unanimously accepted deadlines.

  • Encourage open communication, allowing team members to ask questions comfortably.

  • Establish benchmarks to enhance time management, along with monitoring work progress.

  • Share the consequences of delivering incomplete work.

7. Recognise accomplishments and provide incentives

Managers who recognise the accomplishments of their team members allow their team to possess higher motivation. To further enhance their motivation, managers may also introduce performance-based incentives. Rewarding those who do well may make them feel valued at an organisation. Here are some tips to help managers encourage their team members to complete their work productively:

  • Share feedback with team members routinely and give specific details about what they do best and what their areas of weakness are.

  • Compare the results with their previous performance to highlight their growth.

  • Celebrate their accomplishments and support their career goals.


Explore more articles