When To Delegate

When To Delegate

As I mentioned in the article The Manager’s Role, if you are appointed manager, you probably got promoted because you have a reputation for being a go-to person; a person who works hard and gets things done in your functional area. However, if you want to be an effective manager, you must stop being so self-reliant and instead focus your attention on building a team of go-to people. You don’t “do the work” anymore, rather you need to “get things done through others.”

I wrote about the manager’s role as being like the coach of a sports team. You may have been the star player once, but now you have been appointed as coach of the team. You don’t play the game on the field anymore. Now your role is to recruit, train, mentor, and coach a team of players to perform well in their respective positions and to play well as a team in order to win the game.

What is the Manager’s Role?

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.”

Of all the things great managers do, 2 key functions stand out for me as being critical.

  1. Prioritize the work with clearly defined SMART Goals
  2. Weekly 1-on-1 meetings to discuss performance and provide coaching

I have a two-part saying which aligns particularly well with these two skills:  Successful Business Execution is 20% giving people clarity about what needs to be done, and 80% following up to make sure it actually gets done”.

In this article, I am going to touch on the first 20% of my successful business execution formula. Namely, giving people clarity about what needs to be done, i.e. prioritize the work of team members with clearly defined Metrics, Projects, and Tasks.

In order to perform this function well, managers need to be able to delegate effectively.

What do you need to stop doing?

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.

Peter Drucker said to ask yourself, “What can I, and only I do, that will produce the greatest results?” As a manager, you need to focus most of your time on performing those tasks that only someone in the manager’s role can do. Tasks that increase the output of your team.

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.

To identify your “stop doing list”, make a list of all the tasks you currently perform in a typical week/month and ask yourself:

  1. Does this task increase the output of the team?
  2. Is this task something only the manager should be doing?
  3. Is it a recurring task?
  4. Could someone else be trained to perform this task?
  5. Would delegating this task provide an opportunity for me to up-skill a team member?
  6. Would delegating this task free up more time to spend on high-value activities?

Answering these questions usually identifies a number of tasks that are strong candidates for tasks you need to stop doing; tasks that could be delegated to someone else to do.

It can be tough when tasks that meet these criteria are things you enjoy doing or have developed a reputation for expertise in. It may be also true that no one else currently has the knowledge or ability to perform these tasks as quickly or as well as you. Perhaps you don’t trust anyone to perform them to your high standards either? These are common scenarios.

Get over it.

Yes, when you delegate work to someone, chances are they will take longer than you did, especially in the early days while they are learning the skill 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.

If you hang on to tasks that are not things “only someone in the manager’s role can do”, you are not being effective as a manager and you become a bottleneck to organization growth. You must learn how to delegate effectively and get things done through others.

Here is my article on how to delegate effectively that many clients have found useful


Until next time…