Imagine a food truck owner, a maestro of his mobile eatery, serving up delicious bites to an eager line of customers. His business charm? It’s straightforward and agile, delivering quick, customized service on the go.
Now, let’s say he sets his sights higher, aiming to open a full-blown restaurant to cater to a larger crowd. Can he sling dishes, man the counter, and manage everything solo as he did in his food truck? That’s a recipe for a kitchen nightmare.
Clearly, he’s going to need some extra hands—people to welcome diners, waiters to serve them, chefs to cook for them. It takes a well-coordinated crew to keep a restaurant humming along.
This scenario isn’t far off from what happens in any business when you’re scaling up. Whether you’re aiming to expand your reach, innovate your product, or just make a bigger splash, you’ll quickly see that juggling every ball yourself isn’t just difficult—it’s downright impossible. Enter the art of delegation.
Getting delegation right is like tuning an instrument—it makes every note clearer, every melody sweeter. It’s about assembling a team where each member plays their part in harmony.
When you delegate, you’re not shirking your duties; you’re strategically allocating them so that your time and energy are spent on the tasks where your input is most valuable. This isn’t just about lightening your load—it’s about amplifying your team’s output.
Now, if you’re curious about the nuts and bolts of delegation, you could check out a detailed exploration here. But if you’re poised to begin delegating like a pro, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thought, or simply want to ensure you’re doing it the right way, stay right here.
We’re about to break down the process into manageable steps, giving you a clear roadmap to effective delegation. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- 12 Strategies on How to Delegate Effectively
- 1. Know When to Delegate
- 2. Know What to Delegate
- 3. Know What Not to Delegate
- 4. Identify the Best Person for the Job
- 5. Tell and Sell to Get the Member to Buy-In
- 6. Be Clear and Specific About the Work
- 7. Establish Preliminary Protocols
- 8. Implement a Progress-Reporting Mechanism
- 9. Make Consequences Clear
- 10. Support Your Employees
- 11. Take Feedback Seriously
- 12. Show Your Appreciation
- Final Thoughts
12 Strategies on How to Delegate Effectively
Knowing how to match tasks with the right people is a game changer. When you do it well, you not only make things run smoothly but also end up with a result that can exceed your expectations.
Let’s get down to business—how do you delegate without second-guessing yourself, and how do you build a team that’s like a well-oiled machine? Here’s a breakdown:
1. Know When to Delegate
You’ve got to gauge how tight you want to hold the reins. There’s a spectrum of delegation with five levels, ranging from holding a team member’s hand to letting them run free:
- Level 1: You’re the guide, and they’re taking baby steps.
- Level 2: You’re there with a helping hand, but they’re carrying more on their shoulders.
- Level 3: It’s a partnership. You and your team members are putting in equal muscle.
- Level 4: They’re in the driver’s seat, and you’re more of a backseat navigator.
- Level 5: You’ve handed over the keys. Your team member is in charge, calling the shots.
Now, feeling like you’re overloading your crew or giving away your own job can spook you out of delegating. It’s normal, but don’t let these fears stop you from sharing the load. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a team?
2. Know What to Delegate
When you’re just dipping your toes in delegation waters, ask yourself these:
- Is this something I must do, or can it be someone else’s victory?
- Does my input make or break the outcome?
- Can I carve out time to show someone the ropes?
- Will this task come up again in the future?
- Who’s got the chops to take this on at a higher level?
These are tasks you should considered delegating:
Offices are rife with repeat performances—audits, budgets, event planning. These need to happen regularly, and while they might be quick, if you’re the one always doing them, you’re just spinning your wheels.
Delegate these, and you can reclaim a lot of time. Plus, your team can get really good at these tasks, moving toward that sweet spot of Level 5 delegation.
Promotions and turnover rates can dictate whether to delegate yearly tasks. If you’ve got stable teams, it’s smart to train them well.
If a task is a monster time-gobbler but can be tackled by others, pass it off. Teach your team, and then let them at it. More hands on deck can mean faster completion, especially for those big projects with tight deadlines.
Work That Your Subordinates Are More Skilled In
Leadership isn’t about being the best at everything—it’s about recognizing where others shine brighter. If someone’s a tech wizard and you still own a flip phone, let them handle tech-heavy tasks. It’s not about pride; it’s about playing to strengths.
Projects That Boost Basic Skills
You’ve also got to nurture your team. Some projects are a great training ground, pushing your team to level up their skills. Holding back opportunities stunts their growth, and that’s a big leadership no-no.
Tasks That Your Subordinates Find Interesting
Happy workers are efficient workers. If they like outdoor work, let them step out into the sunshine for their tasks. It’s about keeping energy high and motivation higher.
3. Know What Not to Delegate
Once you get comfy with delegation, you might swing too far and start passing off even your core duties. Watch out for that. Here’re some tasks that you should never delegate:
Tasks That Require Your Unique Skill Set
If a task screams “you” because of your deep knowledge or unique skills, keep it. This could be strategic planning or sensitive team reshuffling.
When the going gets tough, you’re the one who’s got to navigate those waters. The high-stakes stuff should stay on your desk because you’ve got the experience (and the responsibility) to handle it.
Some secrets are too big to share. Anything with a “top secret” stamp or that’s ultra-sensitive should stay with you.
The same goes for big decisions like hiring or giving appraisals. It’s not just about trust; it’s about safeguarding the heart of the business.
Delegation isn’t about dumping your to-do list on others. It’s about smartly distributing the load so you can all march forward together.
Play to your team’s strengths, and keep the truly big stuff where it belongs—with you.
4. Identify the Best Person for the Job
To get delegation right, you need to hand the baton to someone who can run with it. You’re looking to hit the sweet spot where it’s a win-win-win—for you, the business, and the person you’ve chosen.
The trick is to match the task’s demands with your team member’s skills and their level of eagerness.
Scrutinize your team’s talents, their zest for learning, and the things they actually like doing. You want someone who’s up to the challenge, ready to grow, and has a bit of fire in their belly for the work at hand.
Playing to an employee’s strengths isn’t just about making them feel good; it’s strategic. It means the job’s not just done, but done well.
But what about the newbies? They’re often eager beavers, but they may need a roadmap and a good deal of hand-holding. If you can’t commit to guiding them, it’s not the time to delegate critical tasks their way.
Delegation without support is like sending someone on a treasure hunt without a map—it’s unfair, and you’re setting them up to fail.
Don’t forget to look at everyone’s plate before you dish out more. Dumping a mountain of tasks on someone who’s already swamped is a surefire way to tank their performance—and their morale.
Overloading folks isn’t delegation; it’s just being inconsiderate. Balance is key. You want a team that’s humming along, not one that’s bogged down.
5. Tell and Sell to Get the Member to Buy-In
Alright, you’ve got your eye on someone who’s just right for the task at hand. But your job isn’t done yet. You’ve got to pitch it to them in a way that they see what’s in it for them.
Explain why you picked them—maybe it’s their knack for organization, their creativity, or just the way they get things done.
Letting people know that you’re not just piling work on their desk, but actually betting on their growth, does wonders. It plants the seeds of trust.
See, when folks realize that you’re handing them a task because you believe in their ability to knock it out of the park, they’re not just on board; they’re all in.
For the greenhorns in your team, it’s crucial to say that you’re not throwing them into the deep end without a life vest. Make it clear you’re there to give feedback, and not just a thumbs up or down. You’re there to coach them to be better.
And those team members who’ve been around the block a few times? Don’t just delegate and dash. Respect their experience. Involve them in the process, listen to their input, and value their perspective.
It’s not about telling them what to do; it’s about giving them the why and the how that fits with what they already know. That’s how you turn a task into a mission.
6. Be Clear and Specific About the Work
Here’s something important: make sure everyone knows what’s what. When you’re delegating, clarity is king. You’ve got to lay out the what, the why, and the when.
Explain the task at hand—what needs to get done and why it matters. And don’t be wishy-washy about deadlines. A clear finish line gives everyone something to race toward.
At LifeHack I always give my team a roadmap, then ask them to break down the big job into smaller chunks with their own deadlines—these are the milestones. They’re like mini finish lines along the way, and they keep the pace. This is how I can keep an eye on the ball without breathing down someone’s neck.
If your teammate is slipping behind at a milestone, there’s still wiggle room to catch up before the whole thing’s supposed to be at the finish line.
It’s kind of like how colleges do it. Imagine you’ve got a massive paper due at the end of the semester. If all you’ve got is a due date and a title, that’s a recipe for panic the night before.
But if you’ve got to show your work-in-progress every week, you’ve got a better shot at ironing out the creases well before D-Day.
This isn’t about spoon-feeding; it’s about setting people up to excel and giving them the space to shine.
7. Establish Preliminary Protocols
Now, let’s talk about getting started. Even the clearest of instructions can leave some scratching their heads on how to jump in, especially if we’re talking new turf or a fresh type of task. This is where you need a good starting point—a playbook.
At LifeHack, for example, we’ve got our playbooks stashed in Notion. Think of them as your project’s user manual. The leaders whip these up before passing tasks along. And hey, they’re not written in stone. When team members dig into them and hit a snag, they shout out. Leaders tweak the manual, making sure it’s as clear as a bell for the next person who picks it up.
These playbooks are lifesavers. They’re like training wheels for the new stuff. People can get rolling by reading through them instead of pinging back and forth with questions. Saves time, cuts out the noise, and gets everyone moving quicker.
And when new folks join the party, they’ve got the handbook ready to get them up to speed without a hitch.
8. Implement a Progress-Reporting Mechanism
Let’s steer clear of micromanaging—it’s a trust killer. Did you know more than two-thirds of folks say it sours their work vibe? (Yep, Harvard Business School had a thing or two to say about that.)
Here’s the move: Set up a way to watch the game without breathing down players’ necks. You need a progress-reporting system.
It’s like a scoreboard. Everyone can see the score without the coach having to ask. Whether it’s weekly check-ins or monthly round-ups, it depends on the size of your game.
Over at LifeHack, we’re into Basecamp’s auto-check-ins. Regular updates come in, and questions pop up right there—easy peasy. It’s a two-way street too; feedback flows and ideas bounce back and forth. Keeps everything crystal and keeps us all on the same page.
The beauty is, your team brings the updates to you. They own it. No need for you to peek over your shoulders or call constant time-outs. It’s on them to keep you in the loop.
9. Make Consequences Clear
Imagine you give someone a task and they fumble. Are you going to just nod and pay them like nothing happened?
Doing that is like saying, “Hey, it’s cool, I didn’t really care anyway.” That’s not only a slap in the face to them but also makes everyone think it’s all easy-going from here on out.
Here’s the straight talk: if you mess up explaining the job, that’s on you.
But if someone treats your trust like a lottery ticket and blows it, then we’re talking a whole different ball game—you might need to bring in the big guns or cut ties.
In the real world, it’s usually not that extreme. If someone misses a deadline, don’t go for the jugular. Maybe start with a “Hey, we need to talk about this.”
If it becomes like a bad habit, then you start thinking about tightening the reins, maybe trimming their paycheck or their to-do list.
But hey, keep it human. We all trip up sometimes. Give a little grace, but make sure they know there are real lines that can’t be crossed.
10. Support Your Employees
Delegating is not just about handing off tasks; it’s about setting up your people to win. They might need a little boost with extra training or resources they don’t have yet.
Yesh, it’ll take a minute to line up these resources, but it’s worth it. It’s like investing in getting it right the first time. And for stuff they’ll do over and over? That training’s going to pay off big time.
Ask yourself, what does your team member need to get the job done? Don’t set them up to fail by leaving them without the essentials.
Here’s a quick look at what they might need:
If there’s stuff that needs buying for the task, make sure you’ve got the cash ready for them. No money, no materials, means no progress.
People have different talents. If the person you’ve chosen doesn’t have all the skills, who can they team up with? Remember, you’re part of this mix too. Can they come to you when they hit a snag?
This is key. They need to know what’s working and what’s not. Be there to guide them. And hey, tell them it’s cool to ask for a sit-down to toss around ideas. It’ll clear the fog and sharpen their focus.
11. Take Feedback Seriously
Talking about feedback, it’s not a one-way street. Sure, you’re guiding your team member through the project, but once it’s wrapped up, flip the script. Get them to tell you how you could’ve been better.
But here’s the thing, they might keep it zipped because, well, you’re the boss.
Break down that wall. Throw out questions like:
- “What’s one thing I could’ve done differently?”
- “Did I give you what you needed to nail this?”
- “What can I do to make your work smoother next time?”
- “Where did I drop the ball this time around?”
Asking is the easy part, though. You’ve got to take what they say and actually use it. If you don’t, what you’re really saying is their words are just air. That’s no good.
So, when they dole out the advice, show them it matters. Put it into play, and they’ll keep the feedback coming. That’s how you all get better, together.
12. Show Your Appreciation
So you’ve given someone a job to do. Now, how do you get them fired up to nail it? This is something many leaders forget to do.
Sometimes, a pat on the back is all it takes. But other times, you’ve got to show some green.
Here’s the thing: saying “good job” tells them you’re watching and you like what you see. It sets the bar for what you’re after. Plus, it’s going to make them want to get in the game with you again down the road.
Make a point to shout out their successes, no matter how small, during your regular catch-ups.
There’s this book, “The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work,” written by Teresa Amabile, about how big a deal those little victories are for keeping folks on their A-game. People work better when they feel seen.
Match the reward to the effort, though. You wouldn’t hand over the keys to a fancy car for a simple favor, right? And don’t expect a whiz programmer to build your dream app for next to nothing.
If you’re scratching your head over what’s fair, just ask them. What do they want out of this? You might not see eye to eye at first, and that’s fine. But if you want to keep things smooth, you’ll have to meet somewhere in the middle.
Delegating isn’t just about ditching some of your load. It’s about giving your crew the reins and seeing them ride. It’s how you lighten your basket while grooming a squad that can handle the heat.
Sure, tossing the ball to someone else can feel like a high-wire act at first. But don’t sweat it. Like riding a bike, it smooths out the more you pedal.
Kick things off small. Try flicking a few choices over to your team as you go through the next couple of weeks. Watch how it goes, tweak your approach, and keep at it.
Before you know it, you’ll be delegating like it’s second nature. Keep at it, and soon you’ll see your team—and your to-do list—soaring.
Don't have time for the full article? Read this.
Pass the Torch Effectively: Choose the right person for the task based on their skills and workload to avoid overwhelm.
Get Buy-In: Explain why you chose them and support their growth to build trust and ensure they’re invested in the task.
Set Clear Expectations: Be explicit about what needs to be done and when it’s due, and use milestones to track progress without micromanaging.
Provide a Starting Point: Give a playbook or guidelines to help them begin the task with confidence and reduce back-and-forth communication.
Avoid Micromanaging: Use tools like Basecamp for regular updates, allowing for independence while staying informed on progress.
Outline Consequences: Be fair about consequences for dropped tasks, and make sure they’re proportionate to the mistake.
Equip Your Team: Ensure they have the necessary resources, whether financial, human, or educational, to complete the task effectively.
Seek Feedback: Ask for and act on feedback about your own performance to show you value their input.
Show Appreciation: Recognize hard work and offer appropriate rewards to motivate and validate your employees.
Start Small and Scale Up: Begin by delegating smaller tasks and gradually increase as you become more comfortable with the process.