How Well Do You Delegate?
Sharing the Workload to Get More Done
Delegating work to your team members is a key element of getting things done. So why do so many managers say things like:
"I'll do the best job here, so I'll do it myself."
"They'll resent me asking them to do it."
"It's a boring job, so I'll 'lead by example' and do it myself."
"It'll be quicker if I do it."
These are all common reactions to thinking about delegation. However, when you don't delegate, you risk ending up with too much work to do, not enough time to do it, and lots of unnecessary stress.
On the other hand, when you delegate, you might worry that the job won’t get done properly.
Take this short quiz to explore how well you delegate. Your answers will show you if you need to improve. If you do, we'll direct you to some great resources that will help you.
How Good Is Your Delegation?
For each statement below, click the button in the column that best describes you.
Choose the answers that reflect you as you are, rather than how you think you should be, and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the "wrong direction."
When you've finished, click the "Calculate My Total" button at the bottom of the test.
Your last quiz results are shown.
You last completed this quiz on , at .
12 Statements to Answer
|Not at All||Rarely||Sometimes||Often||Very Often|
|1 I explain clearly what needs to be done.|
|2 I delegate things at the last minute.|
|3 I delegate larger projects to teams of people, give them appropriate responsibility, and define clearly their authority to make decisions.|
|4 I provide directions at the start of the project, and wait to see the results at the agreed end-point.|
|5 I choose not to delegate a task if it is directly related to my own objectives and priorities.|
|6 I talk openly about what I expect, and the consequences of missing deadlines and expectations.|
|7 I delegate to anyone in the organization who I believe can do the work.|
|8 I use delegation to develop others' skills.|
|9 I delegate work that is critical to the success of a project.|
|10 I expect delegates to come to me with solutions to problems, not just to ask for more instructions.|
|11 I delegate work that is confidential and sensitive.|
|12 I consider how important employee involvement and buy-in are to the projects and tasks that I delegate.|
Your delegation skills need work. You delegate as a last resort, rather than using delegation as a useful tool to improve your team's skills and to work more efficiently. Look at the resources below to develop a successful plan to improve your delegation skills.
You understand the principles of delegating. However, you like to follow the easy path occasionally! Try to be more proactive in your delegation strategy. Remember how important it is to involve team members, and to provide them with enough time and support to succeed. The resources below can help you to improve your delegation skills and your confidence.
Excellent! You delegate under the right circumstances, and to the right people. You understand that delegating requires time and support from you so that everyone can be successful. You know that delegation is a key part of empowerment, and your team is stronger because of it. Read the sections below to broaden your knowledge further.
What and When to Delegate
(Questions 2, 5, 9, 11)Your score is 0 out of 0
Start by deciding what you can delegate, and when. Then, it's much easier to decide how to delegate, and to whom, and to give them the resources and knowledge they need.
Don't try to delegate work that you should be doing yourself. You might want to ask your strongest team member to prepare a presentation for you, but, chances are, the speech won't connect with your audience if the words and thoughts aren't yours.
Likewise, avoid delegating just to offload tasks that you don't like doing! If you do that, you'll likely find your people become unwilling delegates, and help will be harder to find when you genuinely need it.
If, for example, you need a report completed for your meeting in two hours' time, it may be inefficient to take half an hour to explain to someone else what needs to be done. In that case, doing it yourself will likely save time and stress.
Consider these factors when you decide whether or not to delegate:
- Time. Do you have enough time to delegate? You must be able to give sufficient instruction and support to your team member, and you might need to make corrections to their work, too. (If you don't have time, see our time management section to help you find some!)
- Expertise. Is there anyone available with the necessary skills and expertise to complete the job successfully? Often, the best tasks to delegate are those for which your team members have more expertise or information than you do. They may well perform these tasks better and faster than you could.
- Appropriacy. It is rarely wise or fair to delegate high-profile or strategic tasks, or those involving confidential or sensitive information. Instead, delegate even more of your lower-level work to make sure you have time to do the best possible job of your critical responsibilities, such as planning or recruitment.
For more information on what to delegate, see our article, Successful Delegation.
How to Delegate
(Questions 1, 4, 6, 10)Your score is 0 out of 0
Whatever your leadership style, you want your team to readily accept assignments from you and to complete work to your expectations, so that you have more time for your own work. But a positive outcome depends on how you actually hand over the task.
Effective delegation requires crystal clear communication, so that people know precisely what is expected of them. It also requires you to let go, and to trust your team members.
Here are some key ways to improve how you delegate:
- Agree expectations. Explain to the person to whom you are delegating exactly what you need them to achieve by when, and why it's important. It's much easier for them to see the "big picture" and to work accordingly when they understand their impact. If possible, connect the task to organizational goals.
- Delegate the results, not the process. Most people learn and perform better when you give them autonomy over their work. So, unless the person you're delegating to is inexperienced, allow them to determine how best to complete the task. If you dictate every aspect of the task, they won’t learn so much, and you won’t get the full benefit of their experience.
- Establish checkpoints. Don’t ask, "How's it going?" every hour – that would be oppressive. You can manage the risk of mistakes or delays by agreeing in advance when you’ll check in with your team member, and how they should alert you to any problem.
- Talk about consequences. What rewards can people expect if they do a great job? What will happen if they don't achieve the results you want? Raise the profiles of team members who perform delegated work well.
- Define your role. Explain how much support you'll provide. Encourage team members to make their own recommendations and decisions. However, use your discretion, depending on the task and the individual. Make sure that the person understands the extent to which you expect them to show initiative.
You can use proactive delegation as a tool to empower your team. Where possible, include your team members in decisions about the amount and type of work they want to do. Many people are strongly motivated by feelings of purpose and empowerment, and their value to your team will increase accordingly.
For more ideas on this, see our Bite-Sized Scenario Training: Empowerment and Delegation session.
Who to Delegate to
(Questions 3, 7, 8, 12)Your score is 0 out of 0
Delegating work to a person or team takes thought and consideration. If you delegate to the wrong person, you may spend too much time instructing and supporting them. If you delegate too much to one person, you risk incomplete results, and an unhappy, stressed team member.
Remember that most people produce their best work when they're under a little pressure, but that the benefits fall away if that pressure becomes excessive. (See our article on The Inverted-U Theory for more on this.) Look out for signs that someone has taken on more than they can handle, even if they are keen to go the extra mile.
Plan your delegation to make the best use of people's time and skills, so that the job gets done well and on schedule, and so that you don't become a bottleneck. Good delegation is a valuable tool to help you to develop your people further, building a strong sense of autonomy and mastery over their work.
It is also useful to consider how your people may cope with being delegated to. Our article, How to Accept Delegation, explores this in detail. Why not share it with them?
Think about these issues when deciding to whom you should delegate:
- Organizational structure. Delegate to people who report to you. If you need to go outside your team, get the permission of the other person's manager, and give that manager credit for the outcome. Open communication is important when delegating across functional areas or through different levels of an organization.
- Staff buy-in. Consider how committed you need your staff to be. Gaining their cooperation and support in accepting delegation can be critical to success. They'll feel more involved and more committed to the results. (The Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision model can help you to decide when this is and isn't appropriate.)
- Individual versus team. Some tasks can be easily completed by one person. But, when you delegate bigger pieces of work, think about how many people should be involved and what skills you need.
See our article on Task Allocation for more information on who best to delegate work to.
Our Bite-Sized Training: Delegation session is a great place to practice your delegation skills and apply them to your work right now. It walks you through deciding what tasks you can delegate, to whom, and how to go about it.
Delegation doesn't come naturally to most of us. Often, we think that it's easier and safer to do everything ourselves. But this approach can lead to more stress and less time to spend on our highest priorities - and our teams remain undeveloped.
Delegation is an essential time-management strategy. You can't do everything, so decide what you must do yourself and what you can delegate to others. When you learn to delegate effectively, you'll be rewarded with more time and a more empowered and satisfied team. That's a win-win!
This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!