5 truths about delegation that can make you a more powerful team leader


“DIY should not be the MO of the CEO.”
Fast Company

“It’s quicker to do it myself than to explain it to someone else.” How many times have you thought this throughout your professional life? If the answer – like 52% of everywomanNetwork members[i] - is more times that you’d care to admit, then you need to commit to delegating more often.

To do so is to benefit yourself, your employees and even your entire organisation. After all, leaders can’t truly lead if they’re caught up in day-to-day management. “That,” says executive coach Pippa Isbell, “simply preserves the status quo.”

If you’re struggling to step away from the detail, bear in mind these golden rules of the art of delegation.


1. What’s ‘boring’ to you might be rewarding for the office junior

Nearly a quarter (24%) of everywomanNetwork managers say they avoid distributing responsibility because they don’t feel right asking someone to take on such a boring task. First, says Pippa Isbell, question whether that’s really just an excuse – are you actually just in control freak mode and fearful of letting go? Second, cast your mind back to when you first took on the task in question. Was it initially a stretch and now only seems boring because it’s so habitual? Consider who could in fact benefit from learning those skills you now take for granted. What’s routine for you might be an extra skill on the CV of the office junior.   


2. If you ‘don’t have time’ to delegate, you really need to delegate!

You’ve been responsible for the weekly sales report for so long that it hasn’t even occurred to you that someone else could take it off your hands and free up an afternoon for the vision and planning work you’re always wishing you had time for. But now that you’re toying with the idea of delegating, you’re wondering if just isn’t worth the trouble. After all, it’ll take you just as long, if not longer, to show someone else how to do it. Well in the short term, perhaps yes. But by training or inviting others to shadow you, you’re not only benefiting others’ skillsets and understanding of the business; you’re also creating space around you to put your mind to more strategic matters.


3. Delegating doesn’t mean relinquishing power

Many bosses fail to share the load because they believe they’re somehow shirking their responsibility. Be clear that though you might have delegated a task, you are still entirely accountable for its successful completion. The buck stops with you; you’re simply putting trust in a colleague to perform it to the same high standard.

When you delegate to a more junior colleague, it’s crucial you set clear limits of authority. Are you delegating the entire project or just part of it? When and how frequently do you want to be kept updated on progress? What resources and decision-making powers come with the task? Remember that you should focus on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’. As long as the end result is positive, it doesn’t matter if your employee takes a different approach to the one you’d normally use.


4. If you’re worried someone else will do a better job, all the more reason to delegate!

“Hire people who are better than you, then leave them to get on with it.”
David Ogilvy, Entrepreneur

Many bosses worry that they’ll be shown up by a hungry young team member who performs a task better than them. You should hope they do, says Pippa Isbell, who urges you to see that by hiring brilliant task-maskers, you, as their leader, will reap the benefits: “If you let them shine, you’ll bask in the reflective glory,” she says – time, then, to hand over all those day-to-day duties to the employees who’ll perform them impeccably. By rewarding those individuals with your trust, you exponentially increase their motivation, as well as their flexibility and skills development, thus increasing the collective power of the team - and you as the leader at its helm.


5. True leaders make delegation part of their everyday working lives

“You live and die,” says American businesswoman Jessica Jackley, ‘by your ability to prioritise. You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest.”

As you create your to-do list, always be on the look out for routine administration, repetitive tasks or standardised decision-making that would stretch another team member. Test the waters by handing over tasks during periods of leave, and if all goes well allow team members to permanently take them on.