Engaging Employees through Delegation

Delegation is an excellent time management tool when used well. It is also a path to promotion. You may think that by making yourself indispensable in your current position, you are setting yourself up for a promotion, but the fact is that you may be too indispensable. If folks are sitting around the table discussing who should be promoted, you don’t want them saying, “We could never do without her here – she’s indispensable!” You want them to say, “She has groomed her staff to handle things when she’s gone. We could promote her and then promote someone in her area to take over!”


People often feel guilty when they delegate. They worry over assigning “their” work to someone else. But, if you’re the manager, it is your job to develop your staff. What better way to do that than delegate projects that allow your fellow staff to grow? If you have high control needs, you’re saying, “But I can do it better and faster myself!” Well, that is usually true for the first time, but with practice, your staff will develop those skills. Grooming them helps you and your staff – it’s a win-win. You can accomplish more work at a higher level and ready yourself for a step up the ladder. Your staff will develop skills they otherwise might not have the opportunity to develop. There will be people that are eternally grateful to previous managers who delegated significant projects to them as learning tools and growing experiences.

Here are some ways to make delegation work for you:


  • Review your “to do” list daily– Decide which tasks could be delegated.

  • Determine whom best to do the task Usually go for the lowest level person who is capable.

  • Set clear, realistic goals for completion You may find it better to set the timetable up so that it gets turned into you with enough time for proofing and re-work if needed.

  • Communicate the assignment clearly – If you have an idea of what it is supposed to be like, share your vision. Don’t expect your person to have ESP.

  • Allow mistakes– If you have allowed time to proof and have minor re-work done, this won’t be a huge issue. Don’t take the project back though and complete it yourself; allow the person you assigned to re-do it.

  • Help solve problems as they arise.

  • Set up “checkpoint” meetings to review progress and answer questions or concerns.

  • Let the employee reverse decisions when needed so others on the project can see her as in charge.

  • Give the authority to carry out the assignment.

  • Allow the person to take credit for the assignment. Nothing undermines the process more quickly than you taking all of the credit for their work.

  • Provide latitude for imagination and initiative. This makes the assignment much more fun and you may be pleasantly surprised to see the results.

  • Reward results. Everyone likes a sincere thank you, but think of even more creative ways of showing your appreciation.

When preparing to delegate, look for:

  • Developmental Tasks – Think of the skills needed for someone to move up in your organization and then look for ways to assign tasks requiring such skills to your staff. For example, if written communication skills are a must, start delegating correspondence reports and proposals. If it’s verbal presentation skills, start delegating presentations.

  • Perk Tasks – Often, some projects can be a perk to the person assigned as it provides him/her with better visibility in the organization or allows the opportunity to stretch. Think of ways to use delegation as a reward. It definitely grooms that person.

  • Repetitious Tasks Tasks that you have to do often will give you a better return for your investment of time training the support person to do it. For example: monthly reports, writing procedures or policies, correspondence, etc. If it takes you two hours to train someone, but the task frees up two hours a month, that is a good return on your training investment.

  • Unpleasant (to You)Tasks– To put off (or never do) what we don’t really enjoy, so chances are the set asks aren’t getting done now. You may have someone on the staff that really likes that type of work and would be pleased to do it. That makes it a win-win!

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