Delegation is one of the most important management skills. When it's done well it save you time, develops employees, grooms a successor, and motivates. Done poorly it will cause you frustration, de-motivate and confuse the other person, and fail to achieve the task or purpose itself. It is a management skill that's worth improving.
Delegation is a very helpful aid for succession planning, personal development - and seeking and encouraging promotion. It's how we grow in the job as it enables us to gain experience to take on higher responsibilities.
Effective delegation is actually crucial for effective succession. For the successor, and for the manager too: the main task of a manager in a growing, thriving organisation is ultimately to develop a successor. When this happens everyone can move on to higher things. When it fails to happen the succession and progression becomes dependent on bringing in new people from outside.
As a giver of delegated tasks, you must ensure delegation happens properly. Just as significantly, as the recipient of tasks, you have the opportunity to 'manage upwards' and suggest improvements to the delegation process and understanding - especially if your manager could use the help.
A simple delegation rule is the SMART acronym, or better still, SMARTER.
It's a quick checklist for proper delegation. Tasks must be:
Specific, Measurable, Agreed Realistic, Time bound, Ethical and Recorded
Traditional interpretations of the SMARTER acronym use 'Exciting' or 'Enjoyable', however it is not always possible to ensure that all delegated work is truly 'exciting' or 'enjoyable' for the recipient.
Variously called 'contracts' or 'psychological contracts' or 'emotional contracts', these expressions describe the process of agreeing with the other person what they should do and the expectations linked to the responsibility.
People cannot actually be held responsible for something to which they've not agreed. The point is also that everyone is more committed to delivering a responsibility if they've been through the process of agreeing to do it.
This implies that they might have some feelings about the expectations attached, such as time-scale, resources, budget, etc., even purpose and method. You must give the other person the opportunity to discuss, question and suggest issues concerning expectations attached to a delegated task. This is essential to the contracting process.
Delegation saves time, motivates people, is a two-way process and can often groom a successor.