Effective Delegation: Delegate Outcomes, Not Just Tasks

Effective Delegation: Delegate Outcomes, Not Just Tasks

Delegating Outcomes

Delegation, the art of getting things done through other people, is one of the key building blocks of effective management. Managers who cannot delegate effectively tend to lack the time for their key responsibilities and often fail to manage their team well.

When managers ask a team member to do something, they usually describe the tasks in terms of specific methods/actions. Executive coach Barry Zweibel describes the pitfalls of this common approach.

Effective Delegation: Delegate Desired Outcomes, Results When we delegate tasks–that is [discuss] assignments in terms of processes or steps to take–we run the risk of people doing exactly what we say, but still not getting the job done as we hoped. But if we delegate desired outcomes–that is what we want to result from the assignment–it’s more likely that that’s what will be accomplished.

Barry presents three examples:

  1. When a customer complaint needs to be addressed, instead of “Here, go talk to this person,” try, “Here, go make this customer happy again.”
  2. When a vendor order needs to be expedited, instead of “Here, go track this order,” try, “Here, go insure the successful – and timely – delivery of this order.”
  3. When recent sales figures are below expectations, instead of “Here, go research this report,” try, “Here, go determine what needs to be done to get these numbers back on track.”

Effective Delegation: Explain Context and Broaden Perspective

Call for Action

Clearly, by delegating outcomes–with the authority and resources needed,–you enhance a team member’s responsibility to get the job done.

  • By explaining the outcome of an assignment in reference to the relevant context, you broaden the team member’s perspective on the problem. This increases his/her ability to absorb the assignment and be an integral part of the outcome and the consequent achievement.
  • Do not tell a team member what actions to take or how to complete an assignment. This approach fof micromanaging work is not empowering–it certainly limits the team member’s initiative. Give him/her an opportunity to own the assignment and work in his/her own unique way.
  • If the team member asks for advice on what steps to take, offer a few options and allow him/her to choose the appropriate option. In general, people hate to be told what to do. Thus, providing a few options empowers the team member to explore these options further and decide on the best path by himself/herself.

The key to effective delegation is to approach delegation as an offer to present to a team member, not a demand to be made. Delegating outcomes–not just tasks–helps managers skillfully present assignments to their team members and empowers them to get the job done.


  1. Krishna Rao D U says

    Drive them to think on what you want them to do, and then support them to do. The outcome becomes their baby, so they get empowered with enthusiasm. “Enthusiasm makes ordinary people extraordinary”.

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