How To Delegate

How To Delegate

My one-line summary: “The Manager’s role: Increase the output of the team. Spend most of your time performing tasks that only someone in the manager’s role can do.”

Hint: In my experience, the most important use of a manager’s time is weekly 1 on 1 meetings with your people to discuss their performance and coach them to realize their full potential.

If you’ve just been promoted, making the shift from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager will probably mean saying, “No” to many of the tasks you previously performed. In the article When To Delegate, I shared a process to identify tasks that are strong candidates for things you need to stop doing; tasks that could be delegated to someone else to do.

Here are the key components of a 7 step delegation checklist that many managers find useful when learning how to delegate.

1. What is the desired result? 

  • Describe the Project or Task in detail. Be specific. No ambiguity.
  • Define what is “in scope” and what is “not in scope” to get done
  • Define what 100% complete looks like (or the agreed progress milestone that needs to be reached)
  • Describe “what” needs to be done, not “how”

2. Why do we need to do this? 

  • Describe the purpose of the Project or Task to give it some context 

Yes, you are ultimately accountable for the results of your team’s work but don’t micro-manage them by trying to control everything that happens. You may think your way is the right way, but it’s not the only right way. Communicate “what” needs to be done, and give them the context for “why” it is important. Then give people the freedom and autonomy to figure out “how”.

Note: An exception to this would be where a strict “how to” process checklist must be followed in order to meet standards that are mission-critical or where safety is a factor.

3. Who is accountable?

  • The name of the person being delegated the task. There can be just one name. “Single point accountability”. If everyone is accountable, then no one is. Many people can be involved, but only one person can be named accountable

4. When is it due?

  • Due date needs to be conservative and realistic (see “The Planning Fallacy“)
  • Check if there are other competing priorities that need reorganizing
  • The accountable person must be willing to commit to this deadline

5. What training, tools, information, mentoring, or support are required?

  • Discuss, agree and document these requirements, or alternatively indicate if the person has the skills and capabilities to just get on with the task

6. Level of delegation?  

Indicate which of these 3 levels applies:

  1. Take action independently. No need to report back.
  2. Take action. Report to me as per agreed progress reporting cadence 
  3. Generate options. Report on pros and cons. Provide recommendation. Wait for my approval before taking action. Report to me as per agreed progress reporting cadence

7. Progress Reporting Cadence?

  • Where will progress be made visible?
  • Describe how frequently will you meet to review progress: (e.g. Daily, Weekly, Monthly)
  • Where and how will you meet?

Delegation Results & Lessons Learned

At the end of the assignment conduct an After Action Review meeting to debrief the outcome. Note down the lessons learned (by both parties) to improve future work assignments

Yes, when you delegate work to someone, chances are they will take longer than you would if you did it yourself, especially in the early days while they are learning the skills and you are providing them with coaching and feedback. That’s normal. You invest the time to delegate and train now, to gain back more time and managerial leverage in the future.


Until next time…