7 Rules of Delegation for Leaders

The idea of a singular genius is downright wrong. People are most powerful when they collaborate, cooperate, and put their minds together, and it’s nearly impossible to find someone who has accomplished great success all by themselves.

The idea of a singular genius is downright wrong.

Delegation is key to helping people work together, and proper delegation can help your team achieve extraordinary results. Since masterful delegation is both a skill and an art, here are 7 rules to help you hone your delegating skills.

1. Don't just delegate the things you don't want to do.

Delegation shouldn’t feel like dirty work. That’s why you should delegate fun, interesting, and noteworthy projects in addition to minor ones. Use delegation as a growth opportunity for the delegee to stretch their skills.

2. Create a buffer for mistakes and learning.

Delegation and mistake-making go hand-in-hand. It’s simply a part of learning. But to be an effective delegator, it’s important to create a buffer for mistakes. This means that you give ample time before something is actually due, and you don’t delegate something that the entire organization’s welfare depends on. Give your delegees small projects and slowly build up their level of responsibility as they prove to you their ability to learn from mistakes.

3. Follow-up, but avoid micromanaging.

Proper delegation is an ongoing process. Rather than delegating a project and forgetting about it, you’ll want to follow up on delegated projects and check in as needed. Ask: How is it going? What can I help with? Give individuals an opportunity to express both their concerns and their successes, but do your best not to micromanage them.

Tell people what to do—not how to do it—and let them surprise you with their results.

4. Express desired result.

Successful delegations include explaining the project itself and the desired result. The most important component is being clear about the desired result; this leaves the possibility of the delegee choosing their own way of completing the project.

When delegating work to team member, your job is to clearly frame success and describe objectives.

5. Have a strategy for recovery.

Failure is an inevitable aspect of all new endeavors and projects. In every project you delegate, something can go awry, and unplanned challenges may arise. Developing a strategy for such situations will help your team bounce back and stay on-task. As you create your strategy for recovery, remember that every instance of failure provides an opportunity for learning and growing.

6. Be willing to reset priorities.

As a delegator, it’s your responsibility to be flexible. If another project requires completion before one already scheduled, so be it. If your delegated project ends up taking longer than expected, you need to accept that too. Stay level-headed and maintain an open line of communication.

Be flexible like bamboo.

7. Be open to strengths and weaknesses.

 Delegating projects is a good way to understand someone’s strengths and weaknesses. Consider each delegation as an experiment that will teach you more about a person’s strengths and weaknesses. It will also teach you about your own strengths and weaknesses. 

It is difficult to be a leader for the person who wants to do everything all themselves.

What is your best advice to a leader who needs help delegating? Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.