Since You Can’t Do it All Yourself, You Might As Well Delegate

Delegation continues to reign as one of the most underutilized and underdeveloped management skills.

I’m not surprised because I’m a naturally born terrible delegator.

It took me a while to figure out that as projects and assignments grew, I could not be in the middle of all tasks and decisions. I thought I could and should do everything myself. Impossible.

Once I broke down delegation in my mind as a two-parter, it became a lot easier. First, recognize that there is something to delegate. Second, communicate.

Why We Don’t Delegate

Do any of these reasons sound familiar?

  • It’s my responsibility. I feel guilty passing it off to someone else.
  • I want this done right.
  • I can get it done more quickly if I just do it myself.
  • This is the kind of work I enjoy, and I want to do it.

Eventually there’s an eruption. Your plate is overflowing, pieces are falling through the cracks. It’s time to trust your team or balance the load or share the responsibilities.

Where to Start

  • Make a match. Think about what the task entails and compare that to the skills, strengths and weaknesses of your team. Will this be a stretch assignment or a no-brainer? Delegating is a perfect way to develop your talent on the job and in the moment.
  • Be clear. Provide context so the delegatee can see how they fit into the bigger project. Explain how their assignment impacts others and why it is important. Clarifying deadlines, expectations and available resources is key. Spend the time upfront to set a foundation for success.
  • Involve and trust. Instead of giving step-by-step directions, ask how they think the work should be completed. Allow the delegatee to make decisions and offer alternatives. At the same time, make yourself available for questions and check-ins.
  • Expect it won’t be exactly the way you would do it. It’s ok to give people latitude about how they get the work done. Be flexible and open to new approaches, possibilities and unexpected outcomes. If you’ve invested time in the beginning to define expected outcomes and deliverables and communicated along the way, there shouldn’t be any huge surprises.
  • Close and acknowledge. Take a few minutes to give feedback because you will definitely have observations and suggestions. Ask for their thoughts as well. Recognize their effort and be generous with sharing the accolades.

It’s impossible to juggle everything but many of us try. And fail.

Catch yourself before you’re too deep underwater.


Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele or through email at

Image courtesy of saysomethingmoredan.