global leadership challenges

Leaders learning to delegate


When leaders delegate certain tasks to others, they free themselves to focus on higher-value activities and use their time more productively. However, leaders can sometimes find themselves taking on excess responsibility and holding several projects close to their chest to ensure timeliness and high standards. But this controlled approach can have just the opposite effect.

There comes a time when leaders need to start delegating or else they will find themselves snowed under completely. The quality of the work is likely to drop with a heightened risk of errors and from scattered focus and fatigued judgments.

As a new leader you may initially get away with holding on to work that ought to be done by someone less senior. As your duties and accountabilities expand, adding a contributor’s workload to your senior duties is not going to do you any favors.

Trusting other people with tasks you have delegated is difficult for almost everyone, especially if, like most leaders, you like to keep control on how tasks unfold.

Yet to perform effectively, you will need to become comfortable delegating. Here we look at how to delegate and why it is necessary for leaders to do so.

Delegating responsibility – the impacts

There’s an overwhelming body of evidence that shows that leaders who delegate work are more effective leaders.

In their book, Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results With Ordinary People, authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Charles O-Reilly discuss mounting evidence that delegation, particularly delegating decision making, increases productivity, morale, and commitment.  

These days, experts agree that delegation is key to extraordinary performance. Workload capacity and quality will increase as a result.

In a 2015 Gallup study of 143 CEOs, companies run by executives who delegate authority grew faster, generated more revenue, and created more jobs.

Leaders delegating: What to consider when delegating tasks

It is highly likely that delegating is something you know you should be doing, but you don’t know how to do it. You are likely nervous that the cards might come crashing down if you start letting people ‘interfere’ with the work you are doing. A set of guiding principles can ease the process of learning to delegate effectively.

The most successful delegators are good at what they do because:

  • They choose the right people: Your staff have strengths and weaknesses, and areas where they are passionate about improving. If you know you have a staff member who is highly competent in a particular area of your work, especially if they have expressed a desire to develop professionally in this area, this is someone you should be looking to delegate to.
  • They’re clear about how much responsibility the person has already: You need to be clear about where the person’s responsibilities start and end. Let them know what they can make decisions about and what they’ll be required to come to you for, or else you will muddy the waters and things will get confusing.
  • Make it clear what you want: Once you’ve given an employee their responsibilities it is also crucial to make sure the standards of work are mutually understood.
  • Make sure they have what they need: No matter how clear your expectations are, if your employees lack the necessary resources, whether that’s time, manpower, or guidance, they won’t be able to fulfill their responsibilities. That might mean you need to give them training, or time to upskill.
  • Set check-ins: Don’t send the person you delegate to off with an endpoint or goal and leave them to it. It is important you check in with them to make sure they’re happy and being productive along the way.
  • Encourage creativity: Encourage your staff not to do things your way, but to ponder over new and innovative ways things could be done. You might be surprised by the ideas they have.
  • Motivate: Motivate your staff. Tell them you believe in them. But also, show them you believe in them. Create a strong team morale.
  • Incorporate a no blame culture: Make sure your staff know that, whilst you hold them accountable, you absolutely will not blame them if things go wrong but they tried their best. We’re all human and we make mistakes. If your staff are afraid to try novel approaches, you are stifling them.

Executive coaching can help with leadership development

You probably know that delegation is an important thing to do, but perhaps you are struggling to do it because you can’t get out of your own way. Or maybe you don’t have faith in your staff. Whatever the issue, executive coaching can often help with such obstacles.

Dr. John Behr has worked with leaders to help them be the very best business pioneers they can be. Through executive coaching and assessment, he can encourage leaders to embrace a process of self-discovery that will lead to lasting changes in performance and real, tangible impact on leadership performance.

For more information on how he can help you learn to delegate effectively, please fill in the contact form on our website.