Delegation — one of the critical determining factors for everyone who wants to be an effective leader or manager. And for those of us control freaks, lack of delegating skill can be a real show stopper.

Because the harder you try to hold on to things, the faster they can get away from you, and if you want to extend your reach beyond your ability to do everything at once, you must delegate some things to other people.

In my business coaching practice, and in our franchise for business coaches we find that delegation is simply frightening for many people.


First of all, you may enjoy doing the thing you have to delegate…

You may think you do it better than anyone else. You imagine it won’t get done properly…

And you know it won’t get done your way. You might even believe if you don’t do that thing, you won’t have enough to do.

There are four keys to effective delegating.

1. Give the job to someone who can get it done – someone who either has or has access to, the skills, knowledge, and resources needed. Also, give the job to someone who has time for it. Don’t dump your projects onto someone who has neither the wherewithal nor the availability.

If you do that you are simply setting them up to fail and setting yourself up for disappointment. Don’t just hand your task to the next warm body. Get buy-in from the delegate. Are they okay with this thing? Are they enrolled, or is this just more work for someone who is already overburdened?

2. Communicate your conditions of satisfaction. Have you ever asked someone to do something, and when they came back you said, “Oh. That’s not what I wanted at all”? Be sure you have a mutual agreement on the critical requirements that define how this job must be handled, and what the outcome will look like.

Use SMART goals to clarify the desired outcome along with a timeline for its realization. Also, if necessary, set up a measurement system that will help you and your delegate know whether things are on or off track.

3. Work out a plan. Depending on the complexity of the delegated task, you may ask that the first step be a plan for how to get the rest done. In other cases, the request may be simple and a plan not necessary. But think this through.

If you are uncertain as to how something needs to get done but want to make sure it will occur according to some guidelines – get a plan.

4. Finally, you need a communications protocol – how are you going to get updates and give feedback or advice? When are you going to speak or meet? How frequently? Will they send you an email or a formal progress report? Create some pre-defined mechanism to keep you informed, and to give them an opportunity to seek guidance if appropriate.

There is a big difference between delegating and abdicating. When you abdicate you are saying – I’m neither responsible nor accountable for the results. When you delegate, you are still accountable. You are asking your delegate to do the work, and therefore be accountable to you.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – General George S. Patton

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