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Mastering delegation: A manager’s guide to growth

Suppose you’re leading the web design team in your organisation. What is your job as a manager? Shuffling Figma files around? Changing the CSS of CTA buttons? Tweaking HTML code? Proofreading the web copy and ensuring every word and comma comes from your keyboard?

While there’s no harm in rolling up your sleeves occasionally to provide hands-on support, you are not fulfilling your primary role effectively if you spend a lot of time doing smaller tasks. If you find yourself allocating a major portion of your day to performing the same work that your team members should do, you are neglecting your critical responsibilities as a manager. Learning to delegate is a critical skill for managers and leaders, advising them to start with smaller tasks before moving on to bigger projects, which helps develop patience and allows team members to enhance their skills.

Effective managers don’t try to do everything themselves. Instead, they focus on leading their team to perform at its best. Your role as a leader is to ensure that each team member knows their responsibilities and has what they need to excel. For example, rather than working on the website yourself, you should empower and guide the web developer in your team to perform the task successfully.

The Institute of Corporate Productivity found in a study that 46% of the surveyed companies are concerned about the delegation skills of their managers. A 2015 Gallup study concluded that companies run by managers who effectively delegate authority grow faster, generate more revenue, and create more jobs. This may be a bit old, but a 2013 Stanford study revealed that 72% of chief executives admitted they needed to improve their delegation skills.

The problem is delegation is not optional. Managers and organisations that can’t delegate don’t grow.

John C. Maxwell says in his book Developing the Leaders Around You, “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. Learn to delegate if you want to do great things and make a big impact.”

Delegating means entrusting a task or responsibility to a competent person to carry it out. This means letting the web designer work on the source code and letting the copywriter write.

Through delegation, you concentrate your energies on areas where you have a competitive advantage and delegate everything else. 

The immediate benefits of delegating:

  • More collaborative outcomes.
  • A deeper sense of accomplishment among individual team members.
  • Collective growth.
  • More time for strategy building and growth planning.
  • A positive work environment.
  • Greater scope for innovation.
  • Availability of a wider talent pool.

    Why is it difficult for managers and leaders to delegate?

    On the surface, the concept of delegation may appear simple – as a manager, you have a team at your disposal, so assigning tasks should be as easy as instructing team members to complete them.

    Then why do managers and team leaders find it difficult to delegate?

    If you have just transitioned into a management role, it may be tempting to continue handling tasks independently rather than delegating them to others. You are accustomed to a more hands-on approach in your previous role. Using the website example, if you are familiar with HTML and feel comfortable making minor code tweaks yourself, you might reason that it would be quicker and easier to make the changes yourself rather than briefing the web designer and waiting for them to complete the work.

    Often it makes sense. Sometimes it is actually better to do a small task yourself than to prolong it by delegating it to someone. However, it becomes counterproductive if you frequently do the actual work rather than making your team members work for you. 

    Other than this, some managers find it difficult to delegate due to the following reasons:

    • Perfectionism: Perfectionist tendencies can make delegating tasks challenging for some managers. They may have rigid expectations about how things should be done, making it difficult to give up control. If the work doesn’t conform precisely to their standards, they tend to find it unacceptable.
    • Done how I would do it: The cousin of perfectionism is the expectation, often unexpressed, that the “right” way to do this task is the way I would do it.
    • Lack of trust: They may not trust the staff members to complete the assignment on time or correctly. 
    • Fear of losing control: Many managers strongly need to control every aspect of the work. Doing things on their own makes them feel in control.
    • Fear of being outperformed: Some managers struggle with the fear of being outperformed by their subordinates. They worry that if team members demonstrate superior capabilities on specific tasks, it could undermine the manager’s perceived value and authority. So completing certain tasks, even when they’re not supposed to boost their self-image. 
    • Pre-judgement and biases: This is often termed a “perception trap”. This happens due to incomplete information or subjective biases. A manager may underestimate an employee’s ability to perform due to age, racial or cultural background, communication style or past performance.
    • Guilt and anxiety: This trait is more common in female managers and leaders. Due to deeply ingrained societal conditioning around gender roles, women tend to put others’ needs first, often ending up doing the work of a team member.
    • Enjoyment: Some people actually like working in the trenches. For example, if you love to program, you would rather code than manage your team.

    How do we drive success with delegation?

    Delegation helps your team feel empowered. There is greater trust. There is a boost in efficiency. As a leader who believes in delegating, you gain the trust of your team members. You build strong relationships with your team members through delegation, which further contributes to the organisation’s and its employees’ overall growth and success. Overcoming the challenges listed above is crucial to delegating effectively, ensuring you don’t overload your schedule with tasks that could be better handled by your team, thus fostering their growth and learning opportunities. Additionally, the role of feedback from team members cannot be overstated in delegating effectively, as it ensures that tasks are completed efficiently and helps refine the delegation process over time.

    Delegation helps your team feel empowered, builds trust, and boosts efficiency. As a leader who believes in delegating, you gain the trust of your team members. You build strong relationships with your team members through delegation, which further contributes to the overall growth and success of the organisation and its employees.

    Find it difficult to delegate? Here are a few steps you can take:

    Make the delegation process a priority

    Managers and CEOs must understand that delegation isn’t just some fuzzy concept or a personal preference—it’s necessary for organisational growth. It’s not about stepping back just for the sake of it; it’s about strategically empowering your team members to contribute to the broader goals. Viewing delegation from a management perspective underscores its strategic importance, highlighting how it not only transfers responsibility but also fosters autonomy, boosts productivity, and enhances revenue, allowing managers to focus on higher-value activities.

    Companies like Facebook and Google are good examples of how effective delegation can facilitate growth and success. They’ve mastered the art of assigning tasks and decision-making, enabling them to scale rapidly and innovate continuously. This approach doesn’t just fuel growth; it cultivates a culture of trust and collective responsibility.

    Developing delegation skills must be an integral part of an organisation’s culture. Senior executives can lead by example. A learning environment can be created that promotes the culture of delegation. Leaders and managers who delegate can be recognised and appreciated. The language of corporate documents can be designed to facilitate delegation.

    Identify people with specific skills

    team strenghts

    An effective manager must understand each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Some team members can be counted on under any circumstances, while some might need extra training or time to deliver. Recognising who can do what is crucial. This recognition and the subsequent assignment of tasks not only leverage these strengths but also contribute significantly to each team member’s professional development. By aligning tasks with their varied skill sets, managers can support building new skills and monitor progress towards professional development plans. After identifying these roles and capabilities, you need to trust your team. This trust doesn’t have to be blind; it can be informed and strategic. It involves believing in your team’s potential and giving them enough space to prove themselves.

    Determine what to delegate

    Identifying which tasks to delegate is crucial, ensuring clarity on the desired outcome for each task. This defines expectations for each team member, leading to accountability and a boost in confidence. When you match tasks with the right person, you ensure efficiency and maintain a sense of belonging and purpose. You also emphasise the importance of balancing trust with verification to ensure the success of delegated work.

    This approach also gives opportunities for personal development. Team members who need to acquire new skills or knowledge gain a clear direction on where to focus, especially once their core strengths are recognised. It’s a win-win: your team members grow, and the organisation benefits from their enhanced capabilities.

    Empower your team for successful delegation and decision-making

    manager delegate

    Disagreeing over the size and colour of the contact form button on your website is okay. You need to trust your team. Even if you have more experience regarding this, consider this an opportunity for growth. Letting your team make these choices allows them to learn and experiment. You have to let them experiment. They may be right. Thus, it opens you up to new perspectives and possibilities. This approach can lead to innovation and reveal better solutions than the ones you initially had. Beyond trusting them with decisions, delegating work is a crucial step in empowering your team members further. It involves giving them the authority to make decisions and reassigning important tasks that allow them to develop new skills and contribute significantly to projects. This fosters a culture of trust and innovation.

    Be a mentor and a facilitator

    Your true success lies in steering your team to excel. In challenging times, your team looks up to you for guidance—they need to trust you. Remember, trust doesn’t grow overnight; it’s cultivated daily through your actions. Maintain an inclusive atmosphere. Lead your team members, both individually and collectively. Celebrate their successes and ensure accountability.

    Sharing your knowledge, experience, and wisdom is invaluable. It’s not just about instructing; it’s about inspiring them to learn and grow.

    Every team undergoes a gestation period. Give your team the time and space to bond and evolve into a unified force that meets your expectations. This period of growth is critical for forming a team that not only performs well but also shares a strong sense of commitment and loyalty. Embracing successful delegation is key to maximising personal productivity and developing the skills of your team members, ensuring effective leadership and professional growth.

    Focus on the bigger picture

    Sometimes, you are so bogged down by small details that you miss the big picture.

    As a leader, your role is to form a team that stands strong on its own without the need for constant supervision. You should be focused on the strategic vision. Aligning your team’s efforts with your organisation’s broader goals is vital. 

    This means prioritising long-term goals over minor details like web copy adjustments or font selections for your website. They are important, but trust your team to handle these smaller tasks. As the ship’s captain, your job is to navigate and steer the ship and then guide it towards its ultimate destination. 


    Your ability to delegate decides how capable a manager you are. This is why a manager is called a “manager”. They are supposed to manage people and resources.

    If you were meant to code, you would be hired as a coder or a programmer. If you were meant to balance accounts books, you would be employed as an accountant. If you were meant to work on the copy of your next marketing campaign, you would be hired as a copywriter.

    Your leadership role rests on your unique skill set: your ability to coordinate different individuals and help them achieve their peak performance. This involves balancing different temperaments, qualifications, experiences, and cultural backgrounds.

    Mastering delegation takes fine-tuning. It’s a delicate balance, an art that requires time and patience. Too much delegation can send you on a different trajectory than initially planned, and too little delegation can stunt your growth. It needs to be a collective, concerted effort. It must be an integral part of your overall growth strategy.

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    Written by business coach and CEO mentor Dominic Monkhouse, read more of his work here. Read his new book, Mind Your F**king Business here.

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