The “How” of Delegation

This is part 2 of the delegation conversation. If you haven’t already, you may want to read Part 1 – Delegate to Elevate – the “Why” and Underlying Attitude first.  This blog answers the benefits (why) of delegation and Part 2 explores how.

I wrote in So You Think You Can Lead? that leadership is our responsibility before privilege. We approach delegation from how we can elevate the delegated. It might relate to their skills, capacities and sometimes their place in the community.

Delegating creates a win-win. The clear win for the delegator is to share and distribute work responsibilities and the win for the delegated is to develop and elevate their skills and grow as a person and professional.

While some tasks are just a way of sharing the responsibilities, more often than not, it is our opportunity to grow the person.

When there is a clear win for the delegated as well, there is a greater quality in the outcomes.

This is in clear contrast to the “other” approach.

I don’t have time for this or I want someone else to do it.

This ‘off my pile’ approach can be extremely counter-productive. You may be a manager or supervisor but not a leader that earns respect and admiration with this approach.

From this approach of ‘delegate to elevate’, we discuss the process.

In part, it is your own process as a delegator and in part, it is your communication with the delegated.

1. Start with why this project/task needs to be done.

What is the value of this new task and project for the team? How will this serve your community, be it your team, organization or family?

Let’s take the example of creating a product catalogue. The value of this project is to offer more attractive options to your clients and increase revenue for your business.

Who is best suited to manage the project – for now, and in the future as well?

Once the project is completed, the delegated will have gained new skills and gained experience. It is more efficient if it is the same person who will manage it in the future as well.  Let’s say for our example that the person best suited for this project is Dave.

Can he/his team handle the project without getting overloaded?

Does he have all the basic skills required to complete the project successfully? What skills will he gain from this new project? In other words, how are we elevating his skills, hence his place in the team through this project?

2. Define the desired outcome

What is the outcome of the task or project? The desired outcome could be an attractive product catalogue that is fully updated with new items and new prices.

After establishing the why and project outcome, you may ask Dave: “What do you think of the project?” His buy-in is important in order to produce quality work.

Then, you may ask: “What would the final product look like?” – always start with the end in mind.

This is an opportunity to establish your collective expectation of the project and the desired outcome.

Have you been shocked at an outcome that was totally different than your expectation?  In order to avoid this common mistake, it’s best that the desired outcome is well established in advance.

3. Ensure adequate resources

Then, follow with the question, “What would the process look like from a big picture perspective?” This generally reveals the delegatee’s resources.

If training is necessary, it is important to recognize and provide this at an earlier stage of the project.

Often, the delegatee may not know what they don’t know until they have started the project.

“When will you be able to start the project and when is a good time to check in at the early stage of the project?”

4. Establish timelines

Normally there will be a delivery timeline, a starting timeline with check-ins along the way depending on how big the project is and how new this project is to the delegated.

5. Delivery and feedback

With adequate support with well-established outcomes and checking, the project should be delivered on time and meet expectations.

Feedback is highly important both for the team and the delegatee.

“What did you learn from this project?”

“What challenges did you overcome?”

“What are you most proud of?”

“What will you do differently next time?”


Delegation is less about shifting our work to someone, but rather an opportunity to elevate a team’s skill levels. More skills and capabilities of team members improve the productivity of the team overall and together we achieve greater success. The true benefit of this approach is about the delegatee. Quality individuals want to grow and develop themselves and contribute to the community they serve. Their sense of worth and value is a far greater cause for staying with an employer/team than money and titles.   

Do you remember the first time you were asked by your parents to look after something important – your first ‘delegation’?  How old were you? In completing this task, do you recall feeling proud?  I remember the first time I was asked to go to the store and pick up just one item by myself.  I was 6 and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  It really is not so different for us as adults. Delegation done right, can really elevate our humanity as a whole.

So, if you need to delegate, do so to elevate.

Delegate to Elevate, on the mountain top Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

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