Leaders who cannot delegate are not long in their leadership roles. The inability to delegate tasks and responsibilities leads to team members perceiving the leader as lacking trust, respect, and appreciation for them when it comes to completing important tasks.  Failing to delegate leads to either tasks not getting completed or increasing the leader’s workload beyond a manageable level. Increasing their workload means the leader cannot give all their tasks the attention and effort they need which results in a poor performance. When a leader performs poorly and there is a detectable dissatisfaction from their team, the ‘powers-that-be’ in an organization perceive that leader as incompetent–which means that leader is not fit to lead in that organization.

Leaders who can and do delegate, however, have a far more satisfying and successful experience.  Delegation reduces a leader’s work overload, improves the speed and quality of decisions and task completion, and positions subordinates to view leaders as supportive, visionary, and participative in the workplace process. Leaders who effectively delegate tasks along with the appropriate authority, responsibility, and skill development enhances employees’ sense of self-worth, empowerment, and satisfaction. When the ‘powers-that-be’ see work completed on-time with high standards by happy employees, they see a leader who is capable and positively contributes to the organization’s mission.

For leaders new or struggling to delegate duties, here are a few time-tested success tips:

  1. Pick the right person for the job. An effective leader knows their people, their strengths, limitations, and potential.  Review each member of your team and ask the question: “Of the things that need to be done by this team, what is this person best able to undertake?”  Another strategy for getting ‘the right person with the right job’ is to identify the tasks that need to be accomplished and ask, ‘who is interested?’  Often passion and motivation can overcome slight deficiencies in skill and experience.
  2. Explain why. When delegating a task or responsibility clearly explain the task to be completed, but also explain why you believe they are the person who can get it done.
  3. Set the standard. Inform the person(s) undertaking the task of your expectations for completion. These instructions may include directions, quantifiable measures or benchmarks, standards for completion, or the results you are looking for.
  4. Make resources available. Inform those undertaking the task as to the kind and level of support you are willing to provide them to accomplish this task.  These may be personnel, physical tools, materials, or training.  Let them know that if other resources are needed you are receptive to trying to provide them.
  5. Delegate responsivity AND authority. To successfully complete a task requires the ability to make independent decisions, ask questions, engage available resources, and take appropriate actions. To delegate responsibly for a task without appropriate authority is to make the task difficult, if not impossible, for the designate to complete the task.
  6. Monitor, but don’t micromanage. Periodically check in to see how the project is coming along, provide feedback, but don’t suffocate the process by dominating it.  When complete, sign off with further feedback.
  7. Appreciate and celebrate. When the task is complete, show an appropriate level of recognition and appreciation.  In some cases that may just be a simple ‘thank you’ and in others, it may be a celebratory activity.  Let those who have done well know it and know you appreciate their efforts and achievements.  Good leaders do that.