8 Quick Ways to Delegate Well

Feb 18, 2022

Sometimes delegation is the hardest thing to do. You might want to control the outcome, be across everything that is happening, or maybe you think that nobody could do the job as well as you can.

Does this sound like you?

If you want to move into senior leadership and higher performance roles, you need to get comfortable delegating.

The trick is to delegate in the right way, so that you still get the outcomes you need, while someone else does the work.

In fact, training someone to do your job and delegating aspects of your role to them, not only helps to develop them, it also mitigates risk to the organisation in the event of your departure, and frees up time for you to take on higher value work – meaning you are continuing to grow, learn and broaden your own skillset, in readiness for your next role.

Delegation is aligned to positive, high performance leadership.

In fact, delegating IS managing. When you are managing a team, you follow the same or a very similar process to delegating. Read on and you’ll see what I mean. 

Here are my eight quick ways to delegate well

  1.   Select the right person to do the job

Delegate to someone that is able to understand what is required and do the job. They should have a minimum competency level to achieve the outcome.

It would help if you could tie this into their career plan. For example, if you have a succession plan, you could delegate to your proposed successor, as a way of building out their skillset and growing them for their next role.

If you don't yet have direct reports, think about who would most likely step into your role if you leave, or cover for you when you're away.

Don’t set someone up for failure by giving them something beyond their current capability level – although if they are capable and have potential and the right attitude, it’s fine for them to get a stretch target.

  1.         Get clear on the outcome

Take some time to get clear on what your outcome is, and define it as broadly as possible. Get clear on what good looks like. Write it down.

  •        Why / the problem being solved  
  •         What is the outcome? 
  •         What is the scope?
  •         What is the timing?
  •         Who are the stakeholders?
  •         What resources can be leveraged?
  •         What does “DONE” look like?

Whatever the outcome is, you need to ensure that you and the person you are delegating to, are both on the same page and understand what’s required.

  1.         Take the time to fully brief the person you are delegating to

Make sure you are giving the delegatee enough knowledge to do the role to your satisfaction.

Ensure that you add the “why”. The more context that you provide, the easier it is for the person you are delegating to use their judgement and make decisions.

For example, if I told you that we need to update our sales channel to include a product discount of 15% - you could do this.

But if I told you that our CEO was called by a group representing old age pensioners who are struggling to pay our prices, and as a result we are looking to provide ways of enabling them to purchase our products – you might suggest ways to identify OAPs, maybe they can share the products with their friends for a discount, etc. And the value of the outcome would increase because you had the backstory.

Makes sense?

  1.         Agree the outcome

Ensure that you are both on the same page in terms of the outcome. Often you can have an idea of what you want and seem to be in agreement – but in fact there is still a disparity in expectations which only gets discovered when you reach the end of the task.

So ensure that scope and outcome are clearly agreed.

  1.         Focus on the outcome and not “how” to get there

Once you have agreed the outcome, you need empower your delegatee to reach it.

Often we go in with a task orientated approach which can limit any insights they may having, coming in with fresh eyes.

As long as they have enough context to make decisions, how they do the job should be up to them. Give them the opportunity to be creative and innovative. Leave it open to them to work through it in their own way.

When you are given a piece of work and you have ownership of how to achieve an outcome, you inherently become more embedded in the success of that work.

  1.         Ensure that they have the resources they need to complete the work

Again, you want to do everything you can to support their success. Ensure that they have enough support, budget, resources, the right tools and sufficient time to do the work.

You may need to build some processes and frameworks if they are needed, but don’t add process for the sake of it.

The more complex the work that you are delegating, the more structure may be needed, to ensure success. Conversely, the less complex, the more light touch you can be.

  1.         Quality control

How do you check in and ensure that things are tracking to your satisfaction? You might want to have a communication pathway for them to check in with you regularly on their journey, so that you can assess progress and clear any blockers as required. Don’t wait until the work is complete to do this.

If you are defining a regular meeting cadence, be sure to check in with the person you are delegating to, to understand how regularly they want to meet, as they might require more regular touchpoints than you anticipate.

Remember, the more controlling you are, the harder it will be to delegate, unless you delegate to someone who is very task orientated.

And more you control, the less innovation you will achieve.

So getting the balance right (giving people as much rope as they need whilst ensuring you have a way to get insight and comfort) is key.

Think about your own leader. Are there things they won’t delegate to you? How would you feel if they held onto control, had a helicopter leadership style because they didn’t trust you, or completed work that you could do, because they feel they could do a better job?

  1.         Celebrate and Appreciate

Celebrate and appreciate your delegatee at the end of the task. Acknowledge the work that they have done. They will know that the work they have done is meaningful and significant to you. And this builds into your culture and creates a better working environment.

Finally, remember that when you are delegating, you are growing your people, increasing their capability, which means they will stay at the organisation because they are valued and still learning. This supports strong staff retention, enables you to cross skill your teams, creates a stronger workforce and also creates a positive work culture.

It’s important to have a culture that promotes psychological safety, where it’s ok to speak your mind, to try things that might fail and learn from them without fear of serious consequences, and to be innovative where trying different things is celebrated. Be ok with failure and a fail fast/learn fast approach.

Delegating doesn’t have to be difficult and can have an extremely positive effect on your team.

If you are finding it hard to delegate, lean into learning. 

Remember that short term pain in training translates to long term value in time freed up.

Practise delegating in small ways to build muscle memory, so that when it comes to larger pieces of delegation, you are prepared and used to it.

As you start becoming a high performance leader, it will become second nature.

Dive deep into Leadership, elevate your leadership style and get to the next level!


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