delegate effectively

How to delegate effectively to save time and your sanity

It’s no secret: An important best practice in leadership circles is to 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, “it’s just easier to do it myself.”

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

That way of thinking focuses on the challenge of delegating right now rather than the bigger wins overall that you could make long-term by delegating – or the costs you’re going to face long-term by not delegating.

There are so many drawbacks associated with not fully embracing the magic of delegation:

Opportunity costs

What are you not working on, moving forward with, or making space for (both for you personally and the organization) because your time is being spent on something that you personally 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 the task 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, advance their careers, 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 tenfold, or more!

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 the process of delegation worked.

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 any 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 quite simply — Is this something that you know 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. However, 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 practice 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. Knowing what to delegate can help your team grow and give you the time to focus on other priorities.

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, knowledge, or just a keen interest 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, you’re going to want to communicate the basics:

  • What needs to be done
  • When it needs to be finished
  • What sort of updates or progress reports you want
  • How big of a priority it is within the rest of their workload
  • What resources they can access to help them
  • Any extenuating circumstances
  • Context – for example, if there are additional stakeholders to consult or advise

How you communicate that list is just as important as what you communicate.  

We’ve created a downloadable DELEGATING CHEAT SHEET for you that summarizes what you need to share and how to share it for different types of employees.


Step 3: Evaluate and revise

Improving business process involves constant review, evaluation, and tweaking. It doesn’t have to be onerous, but if you focus a bit of attention on it, things get better quickly.

  • 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?

You know…I get it, delegating is not as simple as sending an email and sometimes that feels harder than doing it yourself, but making a habit of strategically focusing your efforts and your team’s efforts can create huge wins for productivity, employee engagement, and business growth. And who doesn’t want to be a leader racking up huge wins?!?

Frankly, leaders who delegate well are leaders who advance.

Coach’s Questions

What is hovering over you, right now, that could be (should be?) delegated to someone on your team?  What’s stopping you?