How to Delegate Successfully 

There are people in leadership positions who use delegation as a tool to dump undesirable work on people they don’t particularly care for. But when used properly, the way Authentic Leaders use it, delegation can be a powerful tool to grow your future leaders. It not only builds their skills, it grows their confidence and keeps them engaged. Plus, it frees the leader to do something that their people can’t do. 

Here is a reality of leadership. This is true regardless of the size of your organization. As a leader, you should not be doing anything that one of your people has the ability to do. You should be doing the things that only you can do. If you’re doing something that someone else could do then the things that only you can do are not getting done. That adds unnecessary stress and results in lower overall productivity. That is NOT a recipe for growth in your organization. 

Here are some proven best practices to help you delegate more effectively and empower the people you lead.

  • Know what to delegate. Not every task can be delegated. Some tasks are too important, too sensitive, or require too much of your expertise. However, there are many tasks that can be delegated to others, freeing up your time to focus on the most important things.
  • Play to your people’s strengths and goals. When delegating tasks, consider their strengths and goals. Delegate tasks that are aligned with their skills and interests. This will help them feel more engaged and motivated.
  • Define the desired outcome. When delegating a task, be clear about the desired outcome. What do you want the person to accomplish? What are the specific goals or objectives? The clearer you are about the desired outcome, the easier it will be for the person to complete the task successfully.
  • Provide the right resources and level of authority. In order to be successful, the person you delegate to needs to have the right resources and level of authority. This may include access to information, equipment, or people. It may also mean giving them the authority to make decisions and take action.
  • Establish a clear communication channel. It’s important to establish a clear communication channel with the person you delegate to. This will help you stay updated on their progress and provide them with support when needed.
  • Trust your people. The most important thing is to trust your people. When you delegate tasks, you’re essentially giving them your trust. This shows that you believe in their abilities and that you’re willing to let them take ownership of their work.
  • Give them opportunities to learn and grow. One of the best ways to empower your people is to give them opportunities to learn and grow. This could involve providing them with training, mentoring, or opportunities to take on new challenges.
  • Encourage them to take initiative. Another way to empower your people is to encourage them to take initiative. This means giving them the freedom to make decisions and take action without having to ask for permission.
  • Celebrate their successes. When your people succeed, be sure to celebrate their successes. This will show them that you appreciate their hard work and that you’re proud of what they’ve accomplished.

As a leader you may be tempted to think that you and you alone can grow your business. You can to a point but one of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is not letting go of some decisions. Regardless of the size of your business you cannot do it all. The sooner you begin to use delegation to grow your people the sooner they will help you to grow your business.  

Authentic Delegation

Many “leaders” claim to empower their people. Many say they are excellent at delegating tasks to those same people. Funny thing is, their people often don’t know that. 

The reality is that too many people in leadership positions “dump” work they don’t like to do on their people. They give little direction about how to do the task and then, when it’s not done correctly they criticize the person they delegated the task to. 

This reinforces the thinking in the mind of the “leader” that if you want a job done right, you need to do it yourself. 

But Authentic Leaders delegate differently. When they empower their people they provide well defined perimeters for how and when a delegated task must be completed. Then, and this makes all the difference, they get the heck out of the way and let their people go. 

They know there may be a mistake or two along the way. They use that as a learning experience. They do not take the delegated tasks “back” from their people. They coach them towards successful completion. 

If you’re in a leadership position then you must know that growing and developing your people is one of your core responsibilities. Delegation is an essential tool in that development process. Here are just a few of the benefits of Authentic Delegation:

  • Delegation enables a leader to distribute workload and responsibilities among team members, which increases productivity by allowing more work to be completed in less time.
  • Delegation gives team members the opportunity to take ownership of their work and to develop their skills and expertise. This can lead to greater job satisfaction and motivation, which can increase productivity and performance.
  • Delegation requires communication and collaboration between the leader and team members. This can promote teamwork, trust, and a sense of shared responsibility, which can improve overall team performance.
  • Delegation frees up a leader’s time to focus on high-priority tasks that require their unique skills and expertise. This can lead to better decision-making, strategic planning, and overall business success.
  • Delegation is an important leadership skill that requires effective communication, trust, and the ability to identify and develop talent. Delegating tasks and responsibilities can help a leader to grow their own leadership skills and to develop a strong, capable team.

Authentic Delegation is a win-win for both the leader and their team. It enables leaders to focus on high-priority tasks while truly empowering team members. It also improves overall productivity and performance.

If you are an Authentic Leader then you likely already trust your people enough to be an effective delegator. If you’re in a leadership position and don’t yet fully trust your people enough to delegate, then trust yourself. Trust yourself enough to know that you have the skills and ability to coach your people to success. 

The benefits of delegating far outweigh the risks. Those benefits are long-lasting as well. Start small, delegate some low risk easier tasks. It’s likely your people will amaze you with their ingenuity once they learn that they are actually, genuinely empowered to succeed.

Want more of LeadToday? I’m changing things up on my Twitter feed for subscribers. On March 2nd I began publishing two videos each week focusing on an element of Authentic Leadership. I’ll post these videos each Tuesday and Thursday morning. They will be about 10 minutes long so we can get into the topic in a more meaningful way. The investment for subscribers in still only $5 a month. That’s for at least 80 MINUTES of quality video content on leadership a month. 

If you’re interested in taking a look head on over to my Twitter profile page. If you’re not a follower yet just hit the follow button. It will change to a subscribe button and once you hit that you’re on your way. You can cancel at any time you’ve decided you have nothing left to learn about leading the people who you count on for your success. 🙂

Here’s the link to my Twitter… 

Zombie Culture

When I speak on delegating I often make the comment that leaders shouldn’t be doing anything that someone who works for them could be doing. Leaders should only be doing the things that only they can do. If they are doing something that someone else could do then they aren’t doing something that only they can do. 

Of all the things that only a leader can do perhaps none is more important than developing and nurturing the culture of their organization. 

Despite the significance of culture within an organization many leaders overlook the strategic importance of intentionally cultivating the “feel” of their organization. They know on some level that culture matters so they may talk about it’s importance. But they virtually never show it’s importance. 

Talking about culture without backing up the talk with actions is almost worse than not talking about it at all. It can make a leader seem clueless about what’s happening in their own organization. All talk and no action makes it hard to tell if the leader is trying to fool their people or if they are trying to fool themselves. 

Creating a valuable culture within an organization requires a laser focused intentionality. A culture worth having doesn’t happen by accident. It grows out of a positive vision for the future.  A vision where people matter most. 

Authentic Leaders know that the surest way to grow their business is to care about their people. You may be able to fool some of the people into thinking you care about them for a while but sooner or later they will figure out you don’t. 

When your people figure out that you really don’t care about them they won’t care much about investing themselves in the organization either. 

Authentic Leaders know that they cannot talk their organizations into a healthy, growing and caring organization. They must lead the organization to a strong and productive culture. That leadership means showing people that they are valued always. That leadership means demonstrating, showing, even proving, that they are cared for above everything else. 

Even profits.

There are consulting companies today who seem to operate on the premise of “take care of the bottom line and everything else will take care of itself.” They are dead wrong. Emphasis on the “dead” because they are slowing killing the organizations they are supposed to be helping. 

As much as the business world has changed over time there remains one constant truth. That truth is this: take care of your people and they will take great care of the bottom line. 

No, not ever, not even once was there a company that was able to sustain itself with a culture of “profit before people.” 

Culture that is not fed a consistent diet of deeply caring leadership, two-way communication, valuing people of all ages and backgrounds, and fully transparent decision making will NOT die. It will turn onto a culture of disengagement. It turns into a culture of people doing their jobs with the minimum amount of effort required to keep those jobs.

It turns into a zombie culture. 

So if you’re the person at the top of the organizational chart I have a question for you. How many days has it been since you made focused, intentional steps towards building a culture of caring and growth within your organization? How many days had it been since your people realized you took that intentional step?

If the answer to either question is more than a day then your culture is heading in the wrong direction. Only the person at the very top of the organization can change that direction, that task cannot be delegated. 

Don’t try to delegate what only you can do. Work today and each day to build the culture you want to have in your organization….or not. It’s your choice and it’s likely the most important leadership choice you’ll ever make.

Is Micro-Managing Killing Your Business?

So let‘s get this part out of the way early. If you’re a leader who micro-manages your people then you may be in a leadership position but you’re likely not doing much leading.   


Leaders who insist on micro-managing have some problems. The first problem is that they are trying to manage people. That doesn’t work. “Stuff” gets managed, people need to be led. I’ve written frequently about the difference between leading and managing so feel free to look back a few posts to see what I mean. 


The second problem micro-mangers have is that they believe they must check on every detail. That’s most likely the result of being an insecure leader. Micro-managers tend to base their leadership on a lack of faith and trust in other people. 


That’s a huge morale killer. 


It leads to little or no growth. It discourages the development of their people. It focuses on problems of detail, many of which are inconsequential. It discourages teamwork. If they micro-manage often enough or long enough and they will kill their business. It might be a long slow death but it’s death all the same.


Micro-managers take positive attributes – an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude – to the extreme. Either because they are control-obsessed, or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to success. But they risk disempowering their people. They ruin their confidence. They degrade their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they may quit…or worse, they stay and just disengage.


Micro-managers limit each individual’s ability to develop and grow. They also limit what their entire team can achieve, because everything has to go through them.


They don’t trust their people or their judgment. They are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility. What micro-managers fail to realize is that they are cheating their organizations out of the talent they are paying for.


Micro-managing may work for a while but in time it acts like an anchor on all progress. Innovation, new products, and new markets are discouraged because the talent to create and move forward has been derailed by the micro-manager.


The inability of micro-managers to “let go” and allow other people make some decisions, even risk failure, ensures that the growth of the organization will be severely limited. It may take years for those limitations to show up but they will eventually show up. When enough people disengage the business dies, slowly perhaps, but it does eventually die.


Micro-managing is not about the weakness of the team, it’s about the weakness of the leader.

If you’re a leader that suffers this weakness then you must exercise your leadership skills through effective delegation. Delegation is the single greatest tool for building future leaders. It’s also a great tool to help micro-managers break free from the limitations that come from attempting to do it all themselves.

The Difference in Delegation

Webster’s defines responsibility as: the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something and the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or someone.

Authority is defined as: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. Another definition says: a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere. Still another definition says: the right to act in a specified way, delegated from one person or organization to another.

Notice the key differences between the definitions of responsibility and authority. When leaders delegate a task and that delegation fails it is most often because the leader delegated the responsibility to complete the task without also delegating the authority required to accomplish it. 

The person that the task was delegated to is accountable and can be “blamed” for the failure but in reality they had little chance for success because the delegator insisted on holding on to the power, or authority, to actually accomplish the task.

Effective delegation is one of the most productive methods for building future leaders in any leader’s tool box. Unfortunately, many leaders choose simple delegation over effective delegation. 

They don’t have the confidence in their people or themselves to delegate both responsibility and authority for a task.  They make their people responsible for a potential failure without providing them with a major key to delegation success, authority.

What these types of leaders often fail to understand is that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. When they set their people up for potential failure they set themselves up for potential failure as well.

Another thing some leaders fail to understand is that while they can indeed fully delegate the authority required to succeed at a task, responsibility can never be fully delegated. The leader or delegator, will always maintain some responsibility for the task that was previously theirs. 

When leaders covet authority to the degree that they cannot share it they fail at one of their foremost responsibilities: building more leaders. 

I was asked not long ago about the keys to building future leaders. One of the “keys” I answered with was allowing people to fail. Allowing them to fail and also allowing them to “fix” the failure themselves. Let them make a mistake, let them figure out what the mistake was. Let them figure out how it was made and how it can be fixed and avoided the next time. Let them do all this with you as their leader along side them to coach and support, not DO. Help them find their success so that they will know how to succeed when you’re not there to coach and support them.

None of that “figuring out” will likely happen if they don’t have the authority to “fix” the mistake as well.

Do you trust your leadership ability enough to trust the people you lead? Do you have the confidence to share your own authority so your next generation of leaders will one day have the confidence to share it too?

How you answer those two questions will go along way towards determining whether you’re building a compliant following or you’re building committed leaders. 

Stop Micromanaging Today!

Congratulations! You have completed the seven step delegation process we discussed in my last post. You’re sitting back and anxiously waiting for the task to be completed successfully and on time. 

If you have fully followed the process, not skipped any steps and are certain the delegation plan would achieve the desired results then you just might have a chance at a successful outcome.


I say might because even with a sound delegation process and perfectly executed plan success is not guaranteed. In fact, there are three possible outcomes to even the best delegation process and only one of them equals true success.

The first possibility is that you “buy back” the delegation. It works like this: the person you delegated the task to comes to you with a question. You, for some reason, are too busy to lead at the moment so you tell the person “you’ll take care of it” and presto, you just bought it back. With this outcome you’ve accomplished nothing. The  person you’ve delegated to now has reason to doubt their ability and the next time the task needs to be done you will more likely than not be the person doing it.

The next possibility is that you put the delegation in limbo. It works like this: the person comes to you with a question about the plan. You tell them that you will get back to them but you never do. The delegation is now in limbo. When you have your follow-up meeting they tell you the task is not complete because you never got back to them.

All you have succeeded at doing, other than demoralizing the person you delegated to, is convince yourself that you were right all along; doing it yourself or micromanaging people is the only way to succeed.

There is however a third possibility. You establish accountability. It works like this: the person you delegated to comes to you with a question, problem, obstacle or concern. They ask for your “help” or come right out and say they don’t know how to  do the task.

Here is your moment to truly lead. If you are indeed certain that following the original plan will lead to the objectives being met then hold them fully accountable to follow the plan. Tell them THEIR plan is solid, tell them to stick to the plan. Assure them their answers are in the plan. Tell them you’ll see them on the follow up date and you know they will have succeeded. 

If you do anything other than establish accountability you risk looking like and in fact being, a micromanager.  

Don’t risk it! 

How to Stop Micromanaging

In my last post I wrote about the damage done by micromanaging. I could write for hours and hours on this scourge to all things productive. It limits the growth of every type of organization by limiting the growth of it’s people. It kills moral, it kills productivity, it kills profitability and eventually, it kills the organization.

But there is a way to stop micromanaging in it’s tracks. It’s called delegating!

Now as all micromanages will tell you, delegating doesn’t work. They say that if you want a job done right then you must do it yourself.

To all my micromanaging friends I say this: that’s a bunch of bunk!

If you delegated a task to someone and they failed at the task then it’s likely the failure was caused by YOUR poor delegating skills. As a leader you failed to delegate properly and further convinced yourself that you MUST micromanage to ensure the success of your people.

That’s dead wrong and it will lead the to creative death of your people and the financial death of your organization.

Let’s talk about what effective delegation looks like. Before we begin let me remind you that authentic leaders invest time with their people. Poor managers spend time on their people. Effective delegating will require an investment of your time. The good news is that if you do it right, it’s a one time investment for that task.

Effective delegation can be broken down into a seven step process, here are the steps:

1.  Select the Person – As a leader you must first decide who you will be delegating to. You have a couple of choices here. You can delegate to someone you know will get the job done, someone who is already proficient at the task. (This does not ensure success, they still need clearly defined objectives and outcomes to measure their progress and results) You also have the option to truly help someone grow by delegating a task to someone who will have to be pushed well outside their comfort zone in order to succeed.

2.  Plan the Delegation – Next you must plan all details of the delegation. What will be delegated, the deadline for completion, budget and resource requirements. You must also determine how results will be measured. The measurements must be fairly black and white. Opinions cause disagreements, the measurements can’t be based on opinion or emotions, you’ll need facts, figures and deadlines as your measuring tools or you risk a failed delegation.

3.  Meet with the person taking on the task – In the meeting, delegate by explaining what the task is and why it’s important to the organization. Explain the why and how of your decision to delegate to this particular person.

Next, explain the results to be achieved, be very specific here. If you leave “wriggle room” it likely that success will wriggle away.

Explain the rules and limitations of the delegation. Again, specificity is a key here. The person you’re delegating to must know exactly what they can and can’t do. They cannot come back to you for clarification during their task because that gives you an opening to micromanage. Set the guidelines up front, set them firm and make them consistent. Don’t give the person OR yourself any excuse to escape this delegation.

Next set the performance standards for the task. These are the measurements. No gray allowed here, the more black and white the better. When the time comes to evaluate the success of the task you do not want a debate. The outcome, whether or not it was met must be crystal clear to all involved.

4.  Ask for a Plan of Action – The person you’re delegating to should develop their own plan of action. How will they accomplish the task? Can they stay within the rules of the delegation, will it be completed on time?

5.  Review the Plan – The next step is another short meeting where you review their plan with them. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you mess this up the delegation will fail. YOU must be absolutely certain that their plan will result in the task being completed on time and successfully. If their plan will not accomplish the required outcome then you must coach the person to adjust their plan accordingly. Now, here’s YOUR challenge: keep your micromanaging monster in the cave; COACH them to change THEIR plan. DO NOT make this into your plan. They must have ownership.

Here’s another big challenge for you: their plan may be different than the plan you would have developed. Who cares! If their plan will meet the objectives, stay within the guidelines and accomplish the task, then let them go with it. If everything has to be done your way then it’s possible you may just be a hopeless micromanager.

6.  Implement the Plan – The majority of plans fail because they are never implemented. As important as the completion date is to the success of the plan the start date is vital as well. Make certain you have agreement as to when the person will begin. Set a date, even set a time on that date. Specificity is what makes delegation work!

7.  Follow-up – On the date agreed to, meet one final time to assess the results. If YOU didn’t mess anything up the results should be exactly what was required. You have just helped someone grow into a more productive member of the team. You demonstrated exceptional leader’s skills. You and the person you delegated to can now share a great success. Congratulations!

Congratulations maybe…. There are really three possible outcomes to this delegation process. How this delegation will play out is ultimately up to you, the leader.

In my next post we’ll discuss the possible outcomes and how you can impact each one.