Are you good at delegating?

Or do you need to keep in control?

When I was 15 I worked for Bejam Frozen Foods on Saturdays. You might know it now as Iceland. One day I was put in charge of counting the cheese. I was asked whether I was interested in doing it and given clear instructions on what to do. I was pleased to be given the responsibility.

A client was telling me about how they had been asked to develop a vulnerable person policy for their organisation. They had no support or training and didn’t know where to start.

A different client shared how they’d been given a role of calling suppliers. Their manager stood over their shoulder when they were on the calls reminding them about what to say.

Three examples of delegation. One good and two poor.

What is delegation?

Delegation is the art and science of transferring responsibility for the performance of a task to a competent colleague and ensuring that the task is completed on time and in a successful manner.

Why is delegating important?

Effective leaders and managers are able to delegate to maximise their personal productivity and impact as well as that of their team. When done well delegation provides learning and development opportunities for others, facilitates autonomy which is a proven motivator and can build team trust and strengthen relationships. By involving and trusting others with tasks you up-skill those around you increasing team adaptability, commitment and productivity.

Are you good at delegating?

How do you feel about delegating? Do you do it easily?  Or do you avoid delegating because it would take longer to explain the task than actually completing it yourself? Maybe you don’t delegate because you want to be indispensable by being the keeper of specific knowledge? Perhaps you feel guilty about adding more work onto someone else’s plate? Or are you the only person that can do it right?

If any of the reasons above chime with you, it’s important to unpick your objections, as not delegating or poor delegation can have negative consequences. You’ll overload your schedule, feel overwhelmed and prioritise the wrong tasks. It’s difficult to think creatively and make impact when you feel overloaded. By not delegating your colleagues will also miss out on valuable learning and growth opportunities.

Top 5 tips for effective delegation

 Whether you’re delegating to team members, colleagues or volunteers. Here’s my 5 tips to get started.

Step 1 Know what to delegate Not every task can be delegated. For example, performance reviews. For other tasks ask yourself a few questions to figure out whether it’s a task you can delegate.

  • Is there someone else who is better placed to do this work, for example the work aligns with their objectives?
  • Is this work an opportunity for someone to learn and develop their skills?
  • Will this work recur in the future?
  • Do I have time to effectively delegate this work, including training the other person, answering their questions, and reviewing their work?
  • Is this something I should personally work on (because it’s high-impact or business critical)?

You don’t need to answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions. However, asking them helps you identify the best work to delegate.

Step 2 What does success look like? Ask yourself the questions; What does success look like? What is the quality or standard required? How will you know you’ve been successful? How will it be measured? When does it need to be done by?

Step 3 Who is the right person right now? Think carefully about who you delegate to. Think about who has the skills and experience to achieve the desired result. And are you sharing the load? It’s easy to always delegate to the most capable and effective person, however, if you always ask the same person, it doesn’t allow others to shine. It can also be demotivating to have no opportunities to learn.

If employees have objectives or goals, delegation becomes a development opportunity. For example, maybe you have a direct report who wants to gain management experience, consider if there is a volunteer they could start supervising, or a well-defined project they can own?

Step 4 Communicate expectations.  Now you’ve identified who you’re delegating to you can communicate to them what the exact task is, the timeline budget and resources available. Communicate what success looks like and how it will be measured. Confirm in writing to reduce the scope for misunderstanding.

Step 5 Staff member plans the project (details). This gives them ownership and autonomy about how they go about it. Then review plan together. Question anything that feels like a major gap or oversight but resist the urge to highlight minor things that might be different to how you’d do it but would still get the desired outcome.

Effective delegation is being able to focus on the outcomes not the process.


This blog is part of my ’10 steps for effective delegation’ which is one of the modules in the Lucidity Success System. The Lucidity Success System is available to members of the Lucidity Network, a membership community for leaders and managers who want to think differently and make more impact.

For more information and to join the Network follow this link.

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