How to delegate successfully to save time, money (and your sanity)

It’s no secret — in fact, we probably all know it’s a best practice in leadership circles: spend your time on tasks and projects that are the best use of your time and delegate the rest.

Why then, as managers and leaders, don’t we delegate more often and more effectively?

The most common excuse I hear from my clients who resist delegating more is that often delegating takes more time and energy than just taking care of it themselves.

The trouble with that thinking is that it’s very short-term. It’s not good for you, for your company, or your team.

It focuses on the challenge of delegating right now rather than how you might overcome that challenge for bigger wins. There are so many dangers associated with not fully embracing the magic of delegation:

Opportunity costs

What are you not working on, moving forward, or making space for (for you personally and the organization) because your time is being spent on something that you don’t need to be doing?

Employee morale

If your team doesn’t feel like you can trust them with taking things off your plate and owning them themselves, job satisfaction, initiative and employee retention all start to slip. They’re here to do a job, yes, but they also WANT to learn new things, progress their career, and feel useful.


It costs MORE for you to do that task over time than the time it would take for you to train and delegate said task. Yes, the first few times that you delegate there is an investment of your time, but the return on the investment can be ten-fold.

Consider the ROI of the time you spend showing an employee how to do something. Even tasks that appear to be a one-off situation, often aren’t. The skills learned can often be transferable.

So what can you do about it?

There are three steps to effective delegation: knowing what to delegate, knowing how to delegate, and reviewing how it worked to adjust for next time.

Step 1: Knowing what to delegate

When you have that familiar feeling of: “Oh, it’s easier if I just do it myself,” or when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by diminishing time and increasing deadlines, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Would this assignment give someone the chance to grow in their role and develop new skills? Is there a chance this activity might occur again? Would teaching it now to someone else provide lasting benefits?
  • Could the assignment be divided up and given to multiple team members, focusing on each of their individual skills? This is an opportunity to encourage teamwork and make use of each team member’s strengths, all while freeing up your time and attention.

And, of course, ask yourself: Is this something that should be delegated?

If it’s strategic or highly tactical, this might be something you need to do yourself or with some support from the team. But, if it doesn’t require your direct management and you’re pressed for time on issues that are more strategic, now is the time to practise delegating.

Do I delegate enough?

Start by keeping track of your time for a few days, or even a week and try your best to keep a record of how much time you spend on each task throughout the day. It can feel onerous, but our clients who try this often find incredible opportunities for enormous wins through delegation.

Awareness around how we’re spending our time allows us to identify what’s eating up time and delegating can help your team to grow while allowing you to focus.

Step 2: Knowing how to delegate

Once you’ve identified something to be delegated, it’s time to hand it over.

To choose the best person to own the task or project ask yourself:

  • Is it best to be split amongst team members or given to one person?
  • Is there someone on the team who has the background, skills or knowledge to tackle this assignment? If not, is there someone who would likely learn it quickly? Is there someone who loves new challenges, or thrives on deadlines who could run with this?

To hand it over, communicate clearly the following:

  • What needs to be done
  • When it needs to be finished
  • How much time you expect it to take out of their day
  • How big of a priority it is within the rest of their workload
  • What resources they can access to help them
  • Are there any extenuating circumstances?
  • Context — are there additional stakeholders?
  • What sort of updates or progress reports do you want?

You may even want to create a single page template with these questions that you can quickly jot down the answers to make sure that you cover them in a briefing meeting or email for any task that you’re delegating.

Step 3: Evaluate and revise

Improving business process involves constant review, evaluation and tweaking. It doesn’t have to be onerous but it is the way we get better at things.

  • Have a quick debrief meeting with the delegate and ask them if they had all the information they needed to do a good job, if they had any challenges, and what they liked about the project.
  • Look at how much time it took you to delegate and if the outcome was what you wanted or expected.
  • What went well?
  • What could you do better next time?

Yes, I agree. Delegating is not as simple as reassigning a task to someone else but making a habit of strategically focusing your efforts and your team’s efforts can create big wins for productivity, employee engagement, and business growth.

Coach’s Question: What is on your plate right now, that you should be delegating to someone else?

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Originally published at on April 19, 2016.