4 Steps To Proper Delegation

Proper delegation is one of the most jacked up concepts in business…

Proper delegation is an art, but many think delegating is giving someone a task, and expecting that they do it. Here’s why that doesn’t work:

You’re overloaded with stuff so you decide to take something off your plate. You find somebody to give it to, and wait for them to either do it super well (and make you happy), or screw it up totally. Then they screw up, and now you have to take it back and do it yourself.

Here’s the crazy thing: this is what most people think delegation is. Do you know why? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:

“Who taught you? You learned to [fill in the blank] from the leaders before you.”

So change it! The proper way to delegate is NOT to just hand off a task. Instead, your job as a leader is to set your team up for success.

Stephen M.R. Covey is one of many great leaders I’ve met throughout my career, and one of the great things he said about delegation was:

“Don’t just delegate tasks but delegate the results as well.”

Delegating RESULTS, not tasks…

When you only delegate tasks, that’s what people are going to get done (in the best case scenario). However, when you delegate the results, they’ll look to fill in the gaps… the things that they haven’t been told to do.

Now, this can take some time. It is a long process, but it’s a FANTASTIC process when you do it correctly!

When you’re ready to hand-off a task, make sure you’ve answered every single question your team member may have. Give them every tool that they need. Whatever it is, you’re constantly going to them, and doing–what I call–the correct way of micromanaging.

Micromanaging is usually a bad word in the business world…

Because “micromanaging” represents “Hey, did you get that done?” or “Why hasn’t that happened yet?”

Instead, for me, micromanaging is crucial to proper delegation. It’s coming alongside somebody and asking a few simple questions…

These 4 Questions Are Your Key To Proper Delegation:

  1. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

  2. “Are there any questions you have?”

  3. “Are there any tools you need?”

  4. “Does everything about this make sense?”

If you will do this with your team members, if you will make sure they’re taken care of and made to be successful. Then, eventually, they will actually BE successful in the process.

It’s not easy, so you might need some additional help with learning proper delegation techniques…

If you’re still struggling to figure out proper delegation, you might try reading our The Leadership Crazy Cycle post, where you can find more resources on what it takes to provide great leadership to your team!

In Ken Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager, he talks about being able to lead a team so well that you only have to spend one minute with them.

When you do a great job of making your team successful in their processes and day-to-day tasks, so much so that they completely understand what they’re supposed to do… and they do it.

As I write this, I realize some of you might be thinking, “I have absolutely no time to do this.”

That’s probably true… but it’s YOUR fault! Because you’ve waited too long to delegate properly, now you’re stressed out, and you’ve got too many things on your plate. But you’ve GOT to do something about it!

Don’t turn to the closest person and hand something off if you don’t

have the time to make them successful in the process. I can promise you they will fail! You’ll take the project or task back, and add it back to your pile of things that have to get done. Guess what? You’re still overloaded. That is exactly why delegating correctly is so important.

Another lesson I love is the “The Law of The Lid” in John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.

You put a lid on your own organization when you stop growing.

You have to make sure that you’re spending time pouring back into YOURSELF, because your team as a whole cannot grow past you. Start investing in yourself by taking the time to properly delegate to your team!

Question: What are you doing to grow as a leader?

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24 thoughts on “4 Steps To Proper Delegation”

  1. Excellent tips Chris! This is extremely important and helpful. I have failed to delegate the results over and over again. What ends up happening is begin to try and do everything by myself, due to the results I received from delegating tasks in the past. Thanks for helping me put it into perspective and be more effective next time.

  2. Delegation is an investment, to be sure! It is easy to dismiss handling delegation the right way by saying “I don’t have the time,” but this only leads to a more difficult lesson:

    If you don’t have the time to delegate correctly, you absolutely don’t have the time to clean up after delegating incorrectly.

  3. This is absolutely true. I love those questions that you should ask, because I’ve seen too many “leaders” assign a task and walk away. The person is then left unsure of exactly what is expected or doesn’t have the resources to accomplish it well.

    Part of proper delegation is making sure that you are giving it to the right person – not just the closest person or the person that’s available right now. Like you mention, it then takes that time upfront to train them (not just tell them or even train them). In the long run, you help them to become better and increase your time and ability to move forward.

    1. Joshua, very key point! Giving the task to the right person is a huge part of delegation – another reason leaders should be invested and know the strengths of their team!

  4. Right now I’m in the middle of a delegation experience. It has been tough. I’ve tried to provide assistance, be available for help when needed. My team mate had a couple of rough reviews last week on the project he is working on. One was with our client and the other one was with me. It was not pretty. As I read through this questions, I realized that I have taken the right steps to help him succeed. He didn’t perceive it this way. He feels he is being attacked. I ended my last conversation with “I want you to be successful and I believe in you”. My leaders are great at delegation, providing both the responsibility and the support I need. I hope to follow in those footsteps and help my team mate succeed as well. Great topic!!

    1. Lily – good move letting your teammate know your motives. Since it is easy to misjudge others’ motives, letting them know that they have your support is a step closer to the goal.

      I’ve also learned that sometimes it is helpful to let other know what my intentions are NOT.

      “I’m not saying that you are incapable of doing this project – what I am saying is that I want you to be as successful here as I have seen you be with other projects..”

  5. Those are helpful questions when asked with the intent to answer or follow through. Too many bosses ask those questions and then fail to provide the help or information or tools needed or promised. Cynical? Yes, i am.I have had TERRIBLE bosses in the past. I LOVE self-employment!

  6. Chris, thank you thank you for your post! I live in the land of delegation (I own a Virtual Assistance firm). Typically our clients are leaders who are ready to let go and delegate. However at times we have to remind them to give us the information/tools that will help us complete our tasks/projects so we can achieve our ultimate goal…de-stressing our clients, freeing them up to do tasks they enjoy – revenue generating activities.

  7. I used to think that was delegation was simply handing the task off to the next available person. Thank you Chris for challenging us to ask better questions of our team to not only decipher who is best at handling what, but empowering them by example to do the same with those who they are leading. This is a timely post as I am currently audio-reading John Maxwell’s “The 360 Leader”.

    Keep up the good work and pouring into us!

  8. Love this post! Too many leaders delegate incorrectly and then put all the blame on the person they delegated to. If the leader delegates correctly they’ve enabled the other person to grow and experience more responsibility, which can be very empowering.
    At more than one job I have been delegated to and when I respond by asking a couple clarifying questions, they say, I wish I had the time to answer your questions, but I believe in you. And they leave. I’m pretty perceptive so I’ll make judgment calls based on several different preceding experiences, and I get close enough to the result they want that they’re happy. There have been times though when they’ll come to me and ask why I did something and tell me it should have been handled a different way, based on a factor I wasn’t even aware of.
    So yes, delegating correctly is important to those you lead. It can be pretty discouraging to be “found at fault” for something that was not your fault, especially when you tried to figure things out in the beginning.
    Don’t lose your, as Chris would call them, rockstars.

  9. A great reminder that I’m out of practice. I’ve been a one man operator of my business for about two years. However, I have been directing a new ministry at our church as of late and I little coaching in this area is a big help.

    Plus, I find that in my line of work I must delegate tasks to my clients in order to actually complete transactions. Setting expectations and healthy delegation are keys to hitting the target with folks.

    Thanks Chris and I hope the new venture is moving ahead!

  10. Great post Chris!

    Sadly, I’m actually watching my last boss’ business slowly deteriorate due to a horrible lack of correct delegation. He hired a general manager and put him in charge without training him in how he wanted the business ran.
    The boss is a friend of mine and its sad to watch. But that’s the results of not delegating properly!

  11. Thanks Chris, good advice. Asking the four questions you listed opens the door to clear and candid communication. Clarity regarding the task and the results is ultimately what makes delegation successful.

    1. So true Tanya – clarity makes all the difference. One of the top reasons why employees are not doing what they should be doing, is because they think they are already doing it!

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