Be honest — how often during the week do you default to just doing it yourself rather than delegating to a member of your team? If you’re like many leaders, the answer is too much. The reasons that leaders struggle to delegate vary, but whether it’s about feeling guilty or thinking you’re the only one who can get the job done right, it’s a habit that limits the growth potential of your team and puts you on the fast-track to burnout city.
Delegation provides the team with critical development opportunities and enables you to focus on your leadership responsibilities. The success of a delegated project generally comes down to two things: clarity and communication. By setting clear expectations and matching the style of your delegation to the readiness of each individual, you develop your team and grow your collective capacity.
Here are four ways to delegate like a champ:
1. Start with “the why”
Explain why the project matters, its desired outcome, and how it connects to the larger goals of the organization. Then discuss where it fits within the hierarchy of current work and deadlines, explaining any guardrails or boundaries. Don’t assume what’s clear to you is automatically clear to others — walk team members through your assumptions and logic, asking them for their own along the way.
2. Be crystal-clear about expectations
Provide explicit expectations and an example whenever possible. Share a deck at the length and level of detail you’re seeking, or specifically call out what about the project will be the most complex, or what might take the most time (and what should feel quick and easy).
3. Get involved at the right level
Keep your focus on the outcome — what you are trying to achieve — and leave most of the how up to your team. Instead of providing step-by-step instructions, ask what you can do to make them more successful. “What do you need to feel confident getting started?” or “How can I help?” are both good places to begin. Offering more support than guidance gives them the space to experiment and stretch.
4. Don’t set and forget
Delegating doesn’t mean you press send and then check out. It’s crucial to provide timely and constructive feedback and to stay connected through regular check-ins. Take the opportunity to focus on the positive, while also checking that things are on track.
In these times of scarcity, many leaders are looking to redistribute workloads across different parts of the team. Taking the time to delegate wisely will support a more balanced system and accelerate the growth of less experienced team members. It’s more than worth the time it takes to do it well.