Let’s set the record straight about delegating. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it is not one size fits all. Yes, it would be “easier” to do it yourself. Yes, there is an actual right way to do it. And, yes, many of your team think you should do it more often. So, given that, how can you as a leader put aside the excuses and concerns about delegation and start delegating? Let’s look at these truths:

It takes time – Effective delegation takes planning, thought and effort – and, as a result, time. If you delegate effectively, you will need to devote time upfront to decide what to delegate, who to delegate it to, and then plan for the delegation process. However, that upfront time will pay off later in greater clarity, successful delegation, and ultimately your ability to confidently delegate work with minimal intervention on your part.

It is not one size fits all – How you delegate and what you delegate depends on the person you are delegating to. Questions to consider include:

  • What is her level of knowledge?
  • What relevant skills does he bring to the assignment?
  • What other work is already on her plate?
  • What is your reporting relationship to him, if any, and how will that impact the delegation?
  • What has been your experience working with her in the past, if any?

Answers to these questions will enable you to tailor your delegation to the situation, task, and person.

It would be easier to do it yourself – It is highly likely that you can complete a task you are considering delegating much faster than the person to whom you might delegate it. If you focus only on the short-term, you might feel that delegation is a waste of time. However, if you consider long-term implications, the benefits and critical importance of delegation become quite clear. Delegating helps you to stop doing work that you should not be doing at your level and thus frees you up to do the important and possibly less urgent items that you are neglecting – such as long-term planning, strategic thinking, innovation, people development, and your own personal development. These are things that are not getting done, or done well, while you spend time handling these “quick” projects and tasks that you are not willing to let go of.

There is a right way to delegate – As I noted earlier, effective and successful delegation requires planning and your time, attention, and thought. This guide outlines the appropriate steps for successful delegation.

Your team members want you to delegate – There are times when my coaching clients will tell me that they feel bad about delegating tasks because:

A.  “Everyone is so busy.”
B.  “I wouldn’t want my team to think I’m dumping my work on them.”
C.  “They won’t know how to do it and may make a mistake.”
D.  All of the above

Yet often when I debrief that leader’s 360-degree feedback, a number of feedback themes point to the need for delegation. Direct reports will desire greater responsibility. This can happen by delegating projects and tasks. Colleagues will bring up signs of overwhelm and stress they see in the leader. This is often accompanied by viewpoints that the leader doesn’t ask for help or fails to recognize the support around them. Effective delegation would allow this leader to reduce overwhelm by offloading some tasks and focusing more attention on leveraging the talents of the people around them. Senior leaders will question the leader’s ability to develop their team and step up to the next level. Effective delegation demonstrates a leader’s ability to grow and challenge their team and to operate at or above their current level. Ask your team members, and you may learn that they would love to have the opportunity to take on some of the things you are holding onto.

Why delegate? It’s simple. It aids your growth and development and paves the way for successfully growing and developing others. It frees you up to focus on those important and not urgent tasks and helps you to gain a greater understanding of the capacity and capabilities of your team. By delegating projects and tasks to others, you provide the opportunity to develop new skills, build knowledge, and gain greater visibility within your organization.

What truths have you learned about delegating?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.


For further guidance in effective delegation for you and your organization, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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