Key Leadership Trait #2 – Your Ability to Delegate

Are you able to delegate effectively?


Let’s start this discussion with a look at two young companies.


  1. Wedonotdelegateverywell Inc. was started by an entrepreneur who had an idea and developed the company from scratch.  He was the first and only employee for the first year.  Today they employee 300 people and they are growing at a rapid pace.  As an employee it looks like an exciting place to work.  The trouble is that the original owner has to control everything.  He is  part of every decision, every idea and all of the future plans.  But it works.  The company is profitable and secure as is your future.
  1. Weareallaboutdelegation Ltd. Is also a start-up.  Same background but while to original owner is still there all day everyday (you can’t keep him away) he is a delegator.  Everyone is empowered over time to take responsibility and take control of some part of the day to day work.  The good news is that this is a personal growth opportunity.  The bad news is that it is not as profitable and maybe not so secure.

Where do you want to work?  Of course, most of us would pick #2.   Organizations that encourage responsibility, risk taking, personal growth and teamwork will be much more successful in the long run and more importantly, attract better people who will stick around for a longer time.


As a leader or a manager, we need to learn how to delegate more often and with more people.  This is a key management skill.


Why is delegation so important?


  1. Encouragement for Growth.  Delegating gives your employees or team members responsibility and authority to get work done. This creates a more productive environment and productivity means growth for everyone.
  1. Focus – delegating allows you to focus on what is really important.  We want you to be focused on what’s important for the company in the long term and not what is important today.   We want you to be strategic.
  1. Team – delegating encourages a team approach – everyone gets involved in the success of the company.  This fact alone makes for a more enjoyable work environment and again a more productive business.
  1. The right tool.  Delegating allows us to capitalize on other’sstrengths.  Why not get the best qualified people doing the work?
  1. Health – for the workaholics out there learning how to delegate gives you an important break and a healthier you is always good.

delegateAn article out of Rice University Executive Education entitled “Learning to Delegate” says ”As you move up in the organization, the managers above you watch to see not only whether you get the job done, but also how you get it done. They want to see what management skills you have, especially your ability to act strategically, with a focus on future planning and innovation. Delegating skills are essential for demonstrating that you can work at this higher level.”


So why don’t we delegate?  Over the past 30 years I have created numerous small, entrepreneurial ventures – some staying very small but a few grew to be larger than just me. My biggest problem as an entrepreneur was delegating and my biggest excuse for NOT delegating was time and trust.


  •  In so many cases I simply did not have the time to train someone, watch over them and follow-up.  It was way too easy just to do it myself.


  •  This is hard for anyone to admit but I am ashamed to say… “no one could do it as well as me”.  This is a common problem with leaders.   It is very difficult to give up the reigns, especially if it was your baby to begin with.


But in my research I also found other excuses for not delegating.  Possibly you can identify with one of these?


  1. Perceived weakness – delegating is a sign of weakness to senior managers. Those around us will think we can’t do the work.
  2. Turf protection.  If we get others to do the work they are going to get the credit
  3. Hard to give it up.  You enjoy the task you are working on – it’s fun.

If you are not a good at delegation you need to start today.  You need to look around you and identify parts of your day-to-day activities or routines that can be assigned to others around you.


You might look seriously at the routine work you are doing and ask yourself if you are really doing it that well.   I recently found myself completely overwhelmed with the details of a series of events I was running.  When a few items started falling through the cracks every so often, I realized that I wasn’t even very good at managing these details.  It was time to delegate.
So when looking for ‘stuff’ to delegate:


  1. Look at the work you do that you don’t do well – find someone else who can do it better
  2. Find something that an employee has expressed an interest in and hand it over
  3. Find work that will develop a skill that a particular employee requires
  4. Look for a task that will help develop a particular employee for a future position

The process of delegating is not to be taken lightly.  You just can’t wing it.  You can’t drop a file off on someone’s desk and let them loose.  You need to be very careful about how you delegate work.  You need to:


  1. establish very clear instructions with clear deadlines
  2. establish a clear level of authority and this needs to be communicated to everyone
  3. establish performance expectation and behaviors
  4. make sure they know how to get help and assistance
  5. establish a plan – with the employee’s input
  6. provide required resources
  7. be enthusiastic and show confidence in the person’s ability
  8. call regular meetings and follow-up throughout – you can’t leave them out on a limb until it’s too late

And after the work has been done spend some time with your employee to discuss ‘lessons learned‘.  He/she will have lots to contribute both about the task at hand and about your delegation process.  This can be a good learning experience for you as well!


Delegation is important to everyone in your company: employees, you, your stakeholders, your shareholders.


Are you a good delegator?




Graphics provided courtesy of


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