The Principles of Delegation


OWNERS OF SMALL companies must delegate effectively to scale. Without effective delegation, leaders get bogged down. Your productivity goes down while your stress goes up. Can you relate to this? Proper delegation is a recruitment best practice that you must master for your firm to reach it’s potential.

Quality delegation is a complex process with the following steps. Get any one of these wrong, and you’ll sabotage your desired outcomes:

  1. Clarity on which tasks you’re delegating and what the finished product should look like
  2. Clarity on whom to delegate the tasks to
  3. Clarity on what training and supervision is required and who will provide each of these

Most organizations don’t slow down and think through each aspect of effective delegation. Many fail to get the outside help they need to fill their knowledge and skills gaps to excel. Since they can’t teach what they don’t know, they don’t develop the leaders they need to scale. They remain stuck at their current level of revenue. Your ability to delegate will make or break your success. Continuing to learn and grow in this area is a keystone recruitment strategy.

effective communication

I see delegation as a three-part process. I’ll cover steps 1 and 3 here and step 2 (Clarity on whom to delegate to) in the next article. This is because step 2 is a more elaborate process that warrants a separate article.

Step 1: Clarity on What Tasks You’re Delegating & What the Finished Product Should Look Like:

Most industry professionals are hyper-busy, rushing from task to task. They usually resist slowing down to reflect and think strategically due to a fear of falling further behind. Sound familiar? As a result, you delegate tasks that you want to be completed but don’t translate them clearly to your delegate. For example, “Mildred, please go on TIA Watchdog and check out companies X, Y & Z.” When you review the list she created, you realize that you did not clarify key details such as fraud alerts, their no-show record and licensing issues. How much wasted time and frustration is created with these types of delegation missteps?

The solution is to slow down to go faster. One simple tactic is to approach the task as if you’re doing it yourself and type out the steps. It’s amazing how many things you catch when you do a simulation first. You can also record yourself on video going through the tasks’ steps while narrating your thought process. Share the video and/or the written instructions. The critical question to ask yourself is, “if my delegatee does this right, what specifically will I get from them?” It’s important to remember that an hour of thoughtful focus-time to gain clarity can easily save 5-10 wasted hours (or more). The reduction in frustration alone makes this recruitment best practice well worth the effort. Your people will also respect and appreciate you far more since they don’t like to spin their wheels and look bad due to other people’s poor delegation.

step 3 clarity on what training and supervision

Step 3: Clarity on What Training & Supervision Are Required & Who Will Provide Each of These:

This step allows you to execute the delegation process effectively after you get the first two steps right. Step 3 has two distinct parts as follows:

Part 1: Training. Be realistic about the skills and knowledge your delegatee needs. Communicate with them to find out where they need training the most. Avoid taking the attitude of “you should already know how to do this” since it encourages people to hide their skills and knowledge gaps. Once you know their gaps, decide who should train them on these gaps. The delegator doesn’t necessarily need to provide all the training. For example, technology vendors can often provide much of the training required to use their technology.

Part 2: Supervision. Initial training is not enough in most cases since people need feedback, realistic expectations/metrics, and the ability to ask for help. Here’s a basic overview of best practices for supervising delegated work:

Let people know whom they should go to for different things. Just because you delegated work doesn’t mean that you cannot assign others to help you where they can.

Provide frequent feedback in the early stages. Reduce the frequency as the person becomes more competent in performing the tasks. It’s important to carefully review people’s work to help them learn from mistakes and problems early on.

Provide realistic expectations for work output and quality. Make it easy in the beginning to establish success and confidence, then gradually increase expectations.

Provide key metrics that are easy to measure. This way delegatees have a roadmap for success, and you can monitor their performance. Metrics should be used as support infrastructure rather than punishment tools.

Set expectations that delegatees provide you with updates and questions but set follow-up reminders if you don’t hear from them. You can delegate authority to do things, but you’re still responsible for the results.

In summary, effective delegation is a recruitment strategy that’s critical to your success. Think of it as a leadership success skill set. It’s at least as important as any of your direct revenue-producing skills. If you wish to scale, it will exceed the importance of your formerly critical production skills. Since most owners received inadequate training and role modeling in effective delegation, it’s up to you to master these skills now.

Brad Wolff specializes in leadership development to increase productivity, profitability and engagement. Twentyfive years in recruiting and retention taught him how leaders’ actions impact results with their people. Brad’s passion is making the science of human potential simple and practical to achieve greater success with less stress and more satisfaction. He’s a speaker and author of People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. For more information please visit: or email him at [email protected].