Don’t tell me to delegate…It doesn’t work! – Part 2

At first, delegation can feel like its more trouble than it’s worth so in Part 1 we looked at the Why and the What of delegation. The bottom line is that by delegating effectively you can massively increase the amount of work you deliver.

Once you commit to delegation and are clear on what kinds of tasks are suitable to delegate, you need to select the right people, and delegate the right way.

How to choose the right person?

It’s useful to make a list of all the tasks that you are currently undertaking that it makes sense to delegate. Before putting a name alongside the task, you need to consider:

  • The level of experience, knowledge and skill the person has in relation to this specific task.
  • The existing knowledge, skills and experience they can bring from other areas of their work.
  • The need for any learning and development and whether that’s feasible.
  • The person’s goals, interests and attitude and whether these align with the task to be delegated
  • Whether they have the capacity to take this on with their current workload. Does other work need re-assigning?

Once you have identified the task and the right person to carry it out, you must ensure that you set it, and them, up for success. It means investing the time early on in order to reap the rewards in the longer term.

How to delegate effectively

  • Delegate meaningful projects that stretch people so they rise to the challenge. Giving away mundane jobs only de-motivates people.
  • Be clear about expectations, deadlines, standards and all the non negotiables. Ask the person to summarize back to you what they think the task and outcomes are. Don’t assume they’ve understood anything until they say it back to you.
  • Ensure people have enough skills and resources to complete the job: Don’t delegate too much too soon.
  • Agree how you want to work together (progress reports) Coach them on how they will go about undertaking the task. Discuss any concerns either of you have.
  • Be available to help, but resist interfering. When the person asks for help, again coach them to find their own solutions so that they always learn.
  • Ensure stakeholders know that you’ve delegated the task and the authority to carry it out, to this person, so they know who to go to.
  • Show faith and trust in the person: praise successes, and don’t undermine them.

What have been your experiences of effective and ineffective delegation?

6 Responses to Don’t tell me to delegate…It doesn’t work! – Part 2

  • HI Julie,

    Great read! You’re spot on that delegation needs investing time early on to reap rich rewards later. I have personally seen my employees feel empowered and willing to take on more once they feel that i had trust in their ability and delegated tasks to them.

    • Thanks for your comments Mayank. The best convincer for busy managers who still feel they don’t have time to delegate effectively, is to hear from hands on managers like you testifying to it’s value both for you and for your staff.

  • Hi Jeff. Thanks for your latest comment and for providing another useful link. I appreciate it.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful post. I’ve been reading the “Harvard Business Review Guide to Getting the Right Work Done” (found at and find much in common. Your emphasis on getting the right person for the task and front-loading assistance to best enable their success, along with check-ins, is critical to delegating successfully. Delegation is certainly NOT a simple hand-off, and that attitude is a common mistake!

  • Well, the question is not why but how. As an expert, a low-echelon emplyee, an author, anybody who is responsible only for her/his performance, you can do everything yourself but even then, there might be things on your to do list to be delegated (not speaking about the family factory where there are also delegated (part) jobs for everybody in the family).

    All the others (“managers”, bosses, of course) have to delegate. So much about the title induced basic discussion.

    Now, the hows are well detailed above, there is not much to add. Perhaps I would just underline some condition sine qua non elements (beside the obvious clear target setting, monitoring, helping/mentoring/coaching, controlling elements of a delegation project cycle):

    1. The trust – which should always be strenghtened through each successful projects – is something you and your unit (let it be any size, though, of course, if the size is over a per industry/job specifiable number, the elementary, still within reach human trust should be supported, enhanced and networked by effective tools/systems of motivational atmosphere) cannot be long time without (as a really united team).

    2. It helps a lot for your people to feel comfortable and to feel themselves as real trusted members of the team if you bring with you outside of your circle their names attached their ideas, achievements within the projects, i.e. they are seeable from outside for their achievements and you are not disappropriating their work and their ideas.

    3. Also, beside well done your part of the delegation, you should be a (fair) advocate and representative of your team as a team (not only in the actual issues but at any resource allocation, interdepartemental discussions., etc.) and the team members should feel and know about this support. This asssures them a good sort of working environment. They can then participate in any company/bigger unit transaction with enough self-esteem and self-confidence. They should know that you are there to support them if needed but, also, it’s important that this support should be fair for and in view of the mission and targets of the bigger communities.

    You can do all this only by a well chosen and well built team. The good delegation starts with the good selection of your people/team. I used to say: if somebody around the table here is not better than me in his special area, it’s a problem. It rarely happened, our relationship in these cases was short.

    • Thanks for contributing Miklos. You make an important point about trust and I also agree with you about the need for a good team.

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