One of core aspects of being a manager is to coach and empower others. When you delegate you give someone else the chance to grow.

Why is it so important to delegate

Simply put, it saves time in the long run and grows others. Think of the following scenario: You need to create the plan for next quarter activities. You can seat down, think about it, draft something, and publish it once you are satisfied with it. But what would happen if you’d say “Please create a plan for the next quarter activities, our goal is to increase sells by 10%” and delegate the actual planning to one of your direct reports? I frees you to do something else, preferably something only you can do, and builds the planning skills of that individual.

Before we dive a bit into how to delegate and to who, I’d like to highlight one critical point.

Delegation is not task assignment

What is the difference you ask? The critical distinction is that assignment is task-oriented, while delegation is results-oriented. Look at the example above. A task assignment would be “write a plan for next quarter activities” that would lead to a back and forth discussion of what are our goals and how would they become a plan. While a delegated task outlines the goal and lets the person who got delegated to figure out how to do the task. As long as the plan that was produced supports the goal of increasing sells by 10% it was done well. The next phase would be to execute the plan and see if it indeed increased sells by 10%, but that in another step outside the scope of this delegated work.

Why people do not delegate

There are many reasons and I will list some.

  • Not enough time

This is one of the most common excuses not to delegate, usually in the form of “I can do it on my own in 50% of the time it will take to explain the task and later review it”, another common one is

  • I can do it better

That usually comes with the excuse of not enough time.

  • Loss of control

Some managers feel like once they delegate, they will lose control over the work that is being done. There are two special cases of losing control

  • Losing tasks you enjoy
  • Delegate yourself out of the job

All three types of Control loss stem from the same source, the inability to understand that the success of the team is the managers success. Implementing decent ways to review and provide feedback on the work done helps gain the sense of control.

Another problematic issue that stems from the same source is the fear of

  • not getting credit

Which also blocks delegation.

The last one is

  • Trust issues

Where you do not have enough confidence in your team’s ability to deliver.

Who should you delegate to

You should delegate to the person that has the skills and expertise to do the task at hand, and provide training for them to do it well. Choosing the right person can be tricky and might lead to issues with other team members not selected to do the work. Choosing wisely can be critical for the timeline and completion of the task.

How to delegate

As delegation is result-oriented always begin with the desired outcome. Describe the expected deliverable but do not dive into exactly how you fulfill the task. You should provide some training, as very few people in the world know how to do something they have never done before without being trained for it, but keep yourself from getting into micromanagement.

Clearly clarify the timeline, constraints and other limiting factors. A common issue when delegating is mismatching responsibility with authority. If you give someone a responsibility, they need to have the authority to execute it.

The last part of successful delegation is keeping control. You need to clarify what are the checkpoints, and review progress and submitted work. They all should be agreed upon with the delegate, and should be clear when and how they are done. Make sure over and over you are in the sweat spot of in control and out of micromanagement.