Knowing How to Delegate Is a Productivity Plus

Those of us who work alone frequently need to at least maximize, if not increase, our productivity and hiring part-time or temporary help may be what it takes to get us there.  Sometimes, you need to ramp up to take on a big project for which you’ll need specialized competencies that are not in your skill set, prompting you to hire subcontractors.  In that case, you’ll lead a team and coordinate numerous tasks that drive completion of the project deliverables.  In other cases, you need administrative help to free you from routine tasks like bookkeeping and invoicing, or following-up with customer service requests.

In each scenario, the ability to effectively delegate will be instrumental in creating a positive working environment, where your hired help will strive to do their best work, so that desired outcomes are achieved.

Delegating can be considered both an art and a science and with practice, it can be mastered.  An unwillingness or inability to delegate indicates poor leadership.  Leaders who insist upon having their hands tightly on the wheel of every initiative are often perceived as controlling micromanagers by those who work with them. Such behavior telegraphs a lack of trust or even respect.  It is demotivating and ultimately counterproductive.  Here’s a checklist to help you perfect your delegating skill.

  1. Learn and assess the skills and interests of team members/ employees                                                                                                                        Consult with and observe your team members or employees when putting together a working group or assigning tasks and accommodate, to the best of your ability, their strengths and preferences, according to the project needs.  This could be a skills development opportunity for some and the wise leader will enable that process whenever possible and reap the benefits.
  2. Choose the right tasks to delegate                                                                                     You, team leader, are responsible for understanding and communicating the strategic, big picture view of the work.  Subcontractors and part-time help are responsible for their area of specialized skills.  You coordinate all tasks and ensure that milestones are met and the deliverables are provided within the project deadline and budget.
  3.  Provide the tools and authority to do the work                                                    Ensure that your employees or team have the resources—information, time, budget, equipment— and the authority to do what you’ve asked of them.  Don’t make them run to you whenever they need to take action.  Rather, empower them and let them apply their intelligence and creativity to making you look good.
  4. Be clear about expectations                                                                                           Explain the goals of the project or tasks and how they support short or long-term plans.  Explain how results/ success will be measured. Confirm that those who work for or with you understand their individual responsibilities and the collective goal. Make sure that the goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
  5. Provide feedback, guidance and encouragement.  Acknowledge success.     Monitor performance and quickly correct any misunderstandings or problems. Find teachable moments and provide training or useful suggestions when needed.  Encourage and enable excellent work to keep people motivated and productivity high.  Team members and employees will appreciate that you recognize and diplomatically call out both superior and weak performances.


Thanks for reading,


Image: A Goldsmith in Baghdad (1901), Kamal al-Mulk (1847-1941) courtesy of the Islamic Consultative Assembly in Tehran, Iran


How to Delegate Successfully

Christmas season notwithstanding,  I am busy this December and it feels so good! Catch my act on Wednesday December 4 when Dalya Massachi of  “Writing Wednesdays” and I talk about the benefits derived when nonprofit leaders write a business plan for their organization.  3:00 PM EST,  2:00 PM CST,  1:00 PM MST,  12:00 PM PST FREE! Register at

Readers in the Boston area may want to direct clients who are leaders at nonprofit organizations to get essential how-to information on business plan writing at my popular workshop “Become Your Own Boss: Effective Business Plan Writing”.  We’ll meet on three consecutive Wednesdays,  December 4, 11 & 18  5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston MA 02116.  Register at or call 617.267.4430 class ID #10190.

Busy people must learn how to delegate if they intend to get things done.   Often,  there are not enough hours in the day to allow one person to do everything.  Productive people come to know that delegating is necessary if we are to move forward.  Productive people also know what can and should be delegated and how to accomplish that effectively.  What is outsourcing but delegating to a skilled professional tasks that we ourselves cannot complete,   from website design to public relations to cleaning our homes to preparing the food for a cocktail party?

It can be good for business profitability and healthy for organizational development to share the workload.  When time and energy are scarce,  or when we ourselves do not possess the required expertise,  it makes sense from both a time management and quality control standpoint to delegate that project and remove it from our plate and focus on items that only we can do.  If we hoard all the important responsibilities,  it can lead to real or perceived controlling behavior and that is counter-productive.  How to delegate successfully is an important skill and it begins with setting priorities.

Delegate responsibilities and not just tasks  Rather than merely assigning work to someone,  which limits the sense of ownership,  promote buy-in to the project at hand and loyalty to you and delegate the responsibility for leading an element of the project.  Allow that person to shine and display creativity,  analytical ability,  systems and operations talents,  trouble-shooting prowess and whatever else it takes to successfully manage that portion of the project.  You keep an eye on the big picture and do what is necessary to give that person the required resources and authority to do his/her part.

Accept that your way is not the only way   This could lead to some pleasant surprises and a better end result than you envisioned.  Everyone has a unique way of viewing and tackling a responsibility and you are advised to respect those different perspectives and approaches and trust the person to whom you’ve delegated.  Often, there is more than one road to the right solution.  Focus on achieving the desired outcome within the desired time frame.  Never micromanage.

Give clear instructions and sufficient information   Explain the big picture of the project and how the delegated element fits in.  Provide project specifications for what will be delegated and confirm that the person understands.  Make sure that the person has the authority to do what is necessary,  along with the budget, whatever staffing or other resources.  Be clear about milestones and the project due date.  Be available for help,  if necessary.

Teach yourself how to recognize when to delegate a project or elements thereof by first setting goals and objectives for your business,  backed by strategies and action plans that will ensure their realization.  Be candid about your strengths,  weaknesses and the time line.   Outsource/ delegate those responsibilities that you cannot do and focus on the end result.  Build a solid team that is ready to help you achieve your goals.

Thanks for reading,