How Should You Delegate

As you start to manage people, you must change the way you work. Unfortunately, the title of manager rarely comes bundled with any sort of training or direction on what managers do and how they do it. And as a result, those who are responsible for managing people often find themselves frustrated with their jobs or the performance they get from their direct reports (I often refer to them as directs). So one of the areas we will cover here at is the subject of management.

One of the key areas of management is delegation. Most of us are juggling many balls at work. One of the most important, yet hardest things for managers to learn is the art of delegation. Let’s look at why you should delegate, what you should delegate, and how you should delegate.

Why You Should Delegate

One of the key duties of a manager is to develop your directs. By developing your directs you are advancing your organization’s capability. One of the best ways to do this is to delegate tasks to your directs. Delegating tasks also helps you focus, and therefore provide better results, on the key responsibilities of your job.

What You Should Delegate

People often wonder what tasks they should delegate. Here are some guidelines.

You may be juggling 20 balls. but chances are 4 or 5 of those balls are glass balls. this means, if you drop them they break. These are your core responsibilities. These are the things your boss would be very upset with you were they done wrong.

A good manager does not delegate his/her core responsibilities. For example, a Plant Manager should not delegate the management of the plant to focus on human resources. Because if there is a problem with the quality control in the plant, who is the boss going to look to…the plant manager.

So if you don’t delegate your core responsibilities, what do you delegate? The answer is delegate nearly everything else. That’s right, great managers and great executives “over delegate.” Now there are some things your might not be able to delegate, like checking your voice mail or email, anything that will take under two minutes to do or using the bathroom. Overdelegating will help you focus on your core responsibilities. By focusing on your core responsibilities, you will be more productive and get better end results. Also, be sure to delegate all the tasks that either your directs need to learn, like to do, or are good at doing.

How to Delegate

If there is one thing that managers could benefit greatly from doing it’s delegating better. to properly delegate a task you must explain or provide:


  1. Why the task needs to be done
  2. Any background information the direct needs to perform the task properly
  3. Guidelines, but not explicit directions, for how your direct should go about performing the task
  4. A description of what “done” looks like (i.e. the deliverable)
  5. A timeline for when the task should be complete
  6. A request for agreement/acceptance from your direct.

Let me give you an example of a properly delegated task:


We will be meeting with Pfizer about their new capital improvement program on Friday. We need to know as much as we can about this program before this meeting.

I need you to do some research on the client. please provide me with a document that provides a general description of their facilities, descriptions of their facilities people, and information on planned, in progress, or recently completed projects and which consultants are involved with them.

a good place to start looking for information would be their facilities website.

I would like to get this document from you by Wednesday at noon. based on your workload is this a reasonable due date?”


You may be saying, “wow, I’m not writing all that!!!” And that’s exactly why managers complain about their directs’ performance. The problem lies with the manager not delegating properly. Heaven forbid you have to do some thinking up front before delegating a task.

If you fail to include these five key elements when delegating tasks, you will not receive the outcome you desire.

As you can see, delegating is an essential function of effective management. While it is hard for many of us to get into the habit of effective delegation, once you do it you will see improved performance from your directs and from yourself.

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