Mastering the Art of Delegation


We have all known bosses who were good at delegating and those who were not. Delegation can be one of the hardest competencies for an owner or manager to develop. Most people, when put in a management position, have come from a place where they had success “doing” tasks or services. When they first become managers, they want to continue to do what was successful for them. The result is that they are not confident in their ability or competence to delegate and will choose to do the work themselves instead.

Common barriers to delegating include;

  • Lack of trust – Relative to their own skills, they lack confidence staff will meet their standards for quality or time,
  • Manager feels the weight and risks of their overall responsibility and accountability for work,
  • Manager is unwilling to delegate authority with the accountability,
  • Not willing to endure sort term pain of training and developing staff for long term gains, and
  • Managers are constantly in reactive mode and urgent requests override important requests.

Not delegating work can have a significant negative impact on your and your staff’s lives. These impacts include feeling overwhelmed and overworked (burnout), falling behind on key responsibilities, or staff not developed to full potential. You might be a roadblock to career progression within the firm for yourself and your team. Good people with bad habits developed from poor delegation will not be motivated to assume responsibilities when the opportunity arises. An organization that does not develop their people will find they are unable to grow capacity which results in stagnation.

Good delegation has benefits to the employees and the organization. For staff and managers, it frees up time and mental bandwidth to focus on higher priority tasks. It empowers staff. For the organization it opens up opportunities for growth.

Moving from a reactive to a proactive delegation style is a balancing act. The challenge is delegating responsibilities and the associated authority and getting agreement on expectations. Ongoing two way communications must be part of the process.

Strategies to Get Started.

Failure to delegate is often the result of poor communication skills or a lack of trust. In order to get started you need to be honest regarding why delegation is not taking place now. Strategies to consider include;

  • Hire the right people. Focus on more than technical skills. Look at the candidate’s other competencies such as attitude, willingness to learn, potential for progression.,
  • Prioritize tasks that can be delegated,
  • Give clear instructions and establish two-way communications channels,
  • Trust employees. Give them the opportunity to develop good outcomes, and
  • Let it go.

Delegation is not always one-on-one. If multiple people are involved, it is important each member understands what else has been delegated.
What not to delegate

  • Vision – ask for input but do not delegate.
  • Highly sensitive or confidential matters.
  • Backlog. Delegation should not be a solution to your inability to manage your own tasks

Delegating responsibly means you are allowing employees to take an active role in the company. Most employees will tell you they would like more responsibility and accountability if it means they will grow their role and be a more valued member of the team. Delegating responsibly means;

  • Delegating meaningful tasks with realistic deadlines and clear expectations,
  • Developing quality working relationships with subordinates by getting to know their skills, competencies and potential,
  • Learn to trust and acknowledge value, and
  • Don’t evade accountability. Stand behind a team’s mistakes. Debrief why a mistake occurred and include your own role in the evaluation.

For more information on this topic, view the Welch LLP Expert Series webinar “Mastering the Art of Delegation” with Welch Managing Partner, Michael Burch, Darryl Praill, Protagonist at My Lead Agency, and Doug Jordon, Principal/Owner , AFS Consulting.

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