How to delegate

Assigning tasks to others can be good for you – and for them
by Bethan Rees


Delegation is the “art of utilising the skills of others”, according to our Professional Refresher module on self-management. “This is a positive process which requires you to embrace, trust and respect the talents of your colleagues and collaborators,” it says.

The transition from “doing to leading” is difficult, says Jesse Sostrin PhD, a director at PwC’s US-based Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence, in an article for Harvard Business Review. “As your responsibilities become more complex, the difference between an effective leader and a super-sized individual contributor with a leader’s title is painfully evident. While it may seem difficult, elevating your impact requires you to embrace an unavoidable leadership paradox: you need to be more essential and less involved.”

Melinda Fouts PhD, an executive coach, outlines the benefits of delegation in a Forbes council post. These range from giving you time to focus on higher-level tasks and allowing others the opportunity to develop new skills, to developing trust within the team and learning new ways of doing tasks.

To efficiently delegate, there are a number of things to consider.

Let it go

One of the most difficult things about delegating is simply letting go of your work. Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, an internet marketing agency, explains in an article for Inc. that people may struggle to delegate as they feel dedicated to completing their work, or are scared no one else has the right skills or ability to execute the work well. An article by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants explores delegating further. “Letting go doesn’t have to mean losing control”, it reports, “instead, management by delegation means using the power of those around you”. It reinforces the benefits listed above – “By effectively delegating your workload, or at least the ‘time-stealers’, you can free yourself to do more: plan growth strategies, provide staff development and find new clients”.

Know what to keep

Picking which tasks to delegate can be a difficult task. To help with this process, you should split your delegating tasks into two camps, according to an article by John Boitnott for Entrepreneur. The two sets are tasks that are not within your primary skillset (you could do them, but it would take you longer than someone with more experience) and tasks that anyone can fulfil. Boitnott uses a workplace example to illustrate this. “Think about setting up a website … Sure, you can learn WordPress or any other content management system. And it isn’t really difficult to format, proof and publish a page on the web these days … But how long is it going to take you to get this task done? How long would it take a member of your IT staff who eats, sleeps and breathes website work?

“The bottom line is that it costs your company more for you to take care of that blog post than to delegate responsibility to your more experienced and skilled employee. Effective leaders perform this kind of successful delegation over and over again.”

Identify your team’s strengths

Our self-management module says that to delegate, you should identify “the people who you trust to deliver” and be able to “communicate the desired outcomes to them”. In accordance with this, DeMers says you should know your team’s strengths and weaknesses and how well they could perform a task for you. “When delegating, take a look at your team and assign tasks to whoever has the greatest number of relevant skills for that task. It seems like an obvious choice, but too many leaders delegate to whoever has the lightest workload or is the most convenient,” he reports.

“It’s also important to be consistent. For example, delegating the same type of tasks to the same individual will eventually increase that individual’s aptitude for those tasks.”

Feedback and recognition

When the task is complete, you should give feedback and recognition where deemed necessary the module advises. DeMers believes “feedback is the most important part of the delegation process, and it works both ways”.

If the work has been done well, you could publicly thank them and give genuine praise, he suggests. If they haven’t completed the task as well as you would have liked, don’t be scared to give constructive criticism. You should also invite your team to give you feedback. “It’s a critical chance for you to determine whether you’re providing enough information, or whether you’re assigning the right tasks to the right people,” says DeMers.  

Melinda Fouts PhD also reports that debriefing is important. “You gain a greater understanding of the other person’s thought process, how they arrived at and made decisions, and how they approach problem-solving. Each of these areas is crucial to building trust so that you can feel comfortable in delegating more,” she writes.

Do you find delegating difficult? Leave your comments below.

Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email
Published: 01 Nov 2019
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • delegate
  • delegation
  • self-management
  • professional refresher
  • leadership

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