Lots of bosses are good at dumping, but not at delegating, essentially off-loading the things they don't like to do and dropping assignments on their subordinates. Good delegation is based on knowledge of the subordinate and the work to be done.
Lots of bosses and books make "delegation" a magical process, almost separate from supervision. It's not, it's an integral part of the supervision process, among the four basic options you when you ask a subordinate to do a piece of work. Here they are in order from most controlling to least controlling.
- Make the decisions about what is to be done and tell folks what to do.
- Discuss the work with your subordinate, but make the final decision.
- Discuss the work with your subordinate, and then let them decide what to do.
- Give them the assignment and ask what they need from you.
In my programs, I teach that the way you decide which of those options to use is to use a simple process that you can remember with the acronym AW, GOSH. Here's what those letters stand for.
A stands for ability. Do they have the ability to do the job? If they don't have the skills or resources, then you have either a training or resource issue, not a supervision issue.
M stands for motivation. Do they willingly do work that they've been given? If they have the ability and they are motivated, you can go all the way to my least controlling option. Most of the time, though you don't go that far.
The comma(,) is to indicate that the two factors above are the most important ones. The following factors may affect how you handle a specific situation, but they aren't nearly as important as your judgment about Ability and Willingness.
G stands for growth. If I let go a bit more, will it help this person grow and be an even better worker in the long term?
O stands for organization. Are there any rules or regulations that might cause me to modify my original decision?
S stands for situation. If the situation is dangerous you may want to retain more control. If it allows for safety and for the person to fail (but not horribly) then you can loosen up a bit.
H stands for "How will this affect others?" Will this set a precedent? Will it be perceived as fair? Does it set a good example?