12 Outstanding Managers Share How They Delegate for Success

Take Too Long to Teach Someone? How Long Will It Take if You Don’t?


Personal bandwidth who has enough?
Whether we work for a huge corporation or work for ourselves, learning to ask for help in positive, profitable ways is a learned skill. We all have to learn to delegate well or we can’t grow beyond what we can do by ourselves and do well. Without delegation skills, we’ll be stuck as builders, line item worker, mid-level of execution because we won’t be able to …

  • grow past what one person can do in day.
  • trust people who have skills we don’t.
  • move to higher level thinking by passing on what early learners can do.

With that thought in mind, I asked 12 outstanding managers (13 if you count me) this question …

How do you delegate responsibility to inspire the best performance from people you work with?

Here’s what they said.

Know the Outcome You Want

The key to be really clear on what you are looking in a position or on a specific project — and by that I mean, first with yourself. If you don’t have a clear idea in your own mind — if you instead have only a vague notion — it’s pretty difficult for anyone who works with you. And that’s a frustration for everyone. Do I sound like I’ve been there? Uh.. yeah! — Ann Handley

Work with and Trust the Right People

Simple as it sounds, sometimes we reach for the nearest person to help, rather than taking time to identify the person best suited for the work we have. Taking a moment to look at the skills required and match the person to the job can make a HUGE difference in the success of a job.

You are correct, not having enough time to get everything done is a top concern for most of us. I know it is for me. I think that the key is to recognize that you absolutely cannot do it all on your own. And the responsibilities will only increase, so it becomes a necessity to bring in an assistant or even a team to help with time-draining details. Spend time hiring the RIGHT people that can be reliable and trustworthy and then TRUST THEM TO DO IT. — Kelly Olexa

I make sure to delegate squarely in the sweet spot of the other individual’s skill set, which usually maps to one of my weaknesses. This gives the teammate the opportunity to take ownership and feel important (which, in fact, they are!) — Steve Woodruff

First, pick and work with great people, if you want the best performance. Second, never let an issue fester, when you could address with an open honest, if painful, communication. — Becky McCray

Set Clear Expectations

Often when we work with someone we respect, we “endow” that person with great traits. We unconsciously assume he or she will deliver things that we don’t mention when we “hand over” a task.

Clearly state the task to be done, set a clear goal and give feedback when the task is completed — Barry Moltz

I am a control freak, so it is not in my nature to delegate. It has to be a process of discussion and mutual trust, then I let go (as best as I can). This means agreeing time frame, ensuring the person I am delegating to knows EXACTLY what is expected of them, and talking through everything they need before they can get started. — Chris Garrett

First, I make sure I’m clear about what I’m delegating. In other words, I try to make clear the work I expect the person to complete and the decisions that they will be responsible for making.

Second, I try my hardest to trust. This is the only way to not be a micro-manager. Truth is, people have brains and ideas of their own…they might make choices that are different than what I would choose. When they do, I want to learn how why they did, so I ask their rationale. More often that not, it’s sound.

Combined, I believe that these two things allow me to get the best performance from the people I work with. — Scott Porad

Let People Know Why You’re Counting on Their Performance

To get great work, communicate how it important a project is and why it’s important. Let people know that you’re counting on them for their best. Nothing ruins performance more than thinking someone might come behind us to “redo” what we’ve just done.

I get the best results when I explain not only the tasks at hand but also the purpose. Understanding the reason why something needs to be done and the general purpose / objectives behind the work gives the person performing the work extra insight and inspiration to do their best. — Carol Roth

Rather than delegating responsibility I try to delegate “soul”. Always make sure the person knows “why” what I am doing and delegating is so important to me. It becomes an emotional bond rather than a functional responsibility. — Hank Wasiak

Be There After the Assignment

It’s a risk to delegate and forget a project. Often a check back will reveal something that we’ve not communicated well. Sometimes a question or an offer to “take a look” can empower someone to perform at even higher levels.

I work my best to create simple systems and empower those I work with by asking how I can serve them to get the job done better, easier, and faster. — Lewis Howes

Value Great Performance

Everyone likes to be paid well, but payment comes in many forms. Gratitude for great work, referrals, and citations add to the mix of what inspires people to want to do their best work for us.

Explain the task. Illustrate its importance. Communicate the benefit to them. Then make sure the benefit happens. Even if it’s just a “good job” you can’t forget the praise or next time they’ll forget to follow through. — Jason Falls

and Remember to Delegate Even When You Don’t Want to …

The point is that delegating today might mean that it will take you two days to teach someone how to do something, but two days from now they’ll know how … If you don’t delegate now, two days from now you’ll still be someone who has to go it alone.

I suck at actually IMPLEMENTING this, but I DO try to remember it as guidance….learned it from a smart guy on an Admiral’s staff….

“It’s not a question of ‘What must I do?’ It’s a question of ‘What must get done?’ Stuff has to get done, but that does not mean that I – personally – must do it.”

Sheila Scarborough

Asking for help clearly with focus on the person and the work that needs doing can actually improve our performance and make our value greater. After all, who doesn’t know someone who does something better than we do?

Where might a little delegation raise your visiblity, your performance, and the amount of work you get done?

–ME “Liz” Strauss
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  1. says

    At one time it was so bad that I wouldn’t let someone else do the dishes because they wouldn’t do it the “right way”.

    I had to get over this mindset, in my personal life as well as at work. Learning to delegate is key to working smarter.

    And just because someone doesn’t do it exactly the way you would, doesn’t mean they can’t get the job done.

  2. says

    The first point is crucial, you have got to know what the end result is or you have no way of evaluating the work or whether the project was a success.

    Personally, I have got to learn to outsource, there are so many hours you can work or stay stuck in front of the screen. It is just deciding what and then finding someone to trust.

    Great post.

    Best regards


  3. says

    Thanks for a great blog! One of the most freeing statements I ever learned was ‘I don’t know.’

    Now there’s lots of things I do know, one of them happens to be that I don’t know everything. It has lead me to learn how others have addressed some of challenges I have before me without reinventing the wheel.

    Most of us have a particular coping style which usually works – but like the saying goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. The fun is in the learning or watching a master with a different set of tools.

    And there is the community. Really, we’re all in this together, on some level. I find it much better, as this blog beautifully pointed out, to be working with rather then alone or against.

  4. says

    The one thing I don’t delegate is the reading of you blog Liz :)!

    One of my favorite sayings as it relates to follow up of delegation is:

    “Inspect what you Expect with Respect”

    Don’t remember who/where I heard it but it has served me well as a reminder in my management/personal life for years :)

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