When, Why and How to Delegate

Delegate Blog PictureAre you the first one in and the last one out of the office? Are you taking work home or postponing long-range projects? Are all decisions deferred to you by staff? Good managers manage people. Better managers manage resources. The best managers also manage time.

Yes, you can do most things better and likely faster. Yes, you hold your work to a higher standard. And yes, you’ve had prior bad experiences when delegating. But here are some easy guidelines to consider, which reinforce the truth: Delegating does not mean giving up quality or control! It means gaining control of the workplace.

Delegate when…

    1. 1. Someone else can do it as well or better than you can.

2. You might do it poorly because of lack of time due to other duties.

3. Another employee can do it adequately for the cost or time involved (most efficient use of company resources).

4. An employee cannot do it as well, but your doing it would interfere with something more important. Delegate, coach the person on how to do it, and expect less satisfactory results than you would achieve.

5. The project or task will be useful for developing an employee, if costs and time permit and you can afford the risk.

6. It costs too much for you to do it.

7. You are spending too much time on operations or technical work, taking away from your two primary supervisory roles of getting results through people and assisting your employees to succeed.

How to Delegate: From most delegation of responsibility and authority to the least, here’s how to frame it for the employee.

Directives to employee when you are granting authority as well as responsibility:

    1. 1. Take action. No further contact with me is needed (This is


    1. what you are hired to do, or else I trust that you have skills/ability to do this without any supervision, or the action is not critical or expensive enough to monitor further. In which case, please do NOT report back).

2. Take action and let me know what you did. I want to be apprised of final result, to assure myself that it is completed, or so that I can move on with another task, etc.

3. Look into this problem: Let me know what you intend to do, and then do it unless I say not to. While I trust your experience and/or judgment on other things, I may realize something you won’t, or have new or additional information that could change
a directive for this project.

Directives to employee when you do not want them to have final authority:

    1. 1. Look into this problem and let me know what you intend to do. Delay the action, however, until I give approval. I don’t need to know all of the particulars unless I ask.

2. Look into this problem and let me know alternative actions available, with pros and cons, and recommend one for my approval. I need the information you are using to make your decision so that I can check your judgment against mine – or the cost of the project (money, time or resources) is too much to delegate the final decision without the facts.

3. Look into this problem and give me all the facts you discover. I will then decide what to do. This is my decision alone to make and you are acting as my assistant, not my agent.

Having a clear framework for when and how to delegate will help you inspire appropriate confidence in your workforce, and free you up to spend more time on the business than in it. Have a topic you’d like considered for discussion? Email your ideas!

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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