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Let go and build a bigger, better future
Category: Advice, Innovation, Leadership, People & HR, Strategy, Tips

Plus 7 tips for how to delegate more effectively.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. ― Lao Tzu

It will be faster if I do it. 

I love doing this kind of work.

I won’t get the credit.

I can do it better.

I don’t know how to delegate.

I don’t trust others.

They’re too busy.

I will lose my value.

I will be perceived as being lazy.

Do any of these objections to delegating sound familiar?

Whatever the excuse you might be telling yourself, the result of not delegating is likely bad for you, your team and your organization. Leaders who ineffectively delegate create capability bottlenecks by depriving their team of opportunities for learning and growth. They overburden themselves with responsibilities below their pay grade and breed low commitment teams. 

Conversely, when leaders effectively delegate, they protect themselves and their team against today’s workplace burn-out, lacklustre engagement and under-performance. They seize opportunities to grow their own skills and abilities as well as those of their team, and they build teams with higher morale while fostering a culture of trust. These leaders are turned in the right direction – facing forward, not backward. They are focussed on the critical strategic tasks only they can do and they have unleashed the talent around them for the rest.

Despite these enticing benefits, only “one manager in ten knows how to empower staff through delegation.” according to this article by Martin Zwilling on “How To Delegate More Effectively In Your Business.” 

Imagine what you could stand to gain by being part of that exclusive 10% of highly skilled leaders?

How effectively do you delegate? Take the quiz.

If delegation has so many benefits, why aren’t leaders better at it? Delegation is a planned process of transferring responsibility by letting go and empowering others. Most delegation efforts today are neither well planned and rarely are the delegatees granted full responsibility.

Planned process. Perhaps you have tried in the past to delegate and you have not succeeded. You have likely further reinforced your belief that only you can do it faster and better. Chances are, you encountered a problem with your process. Proper delegation requires ongoing participation, dialogue and refinement between you and the delegatee. 

Transferring responsibility.  Transferring the full responsibility and ownership necessary for effective delegation becomes a “letting go” challenge for the leader. Letting go of how you see yourself; what has defined you to this point, what you are good at and likely what you have been rewarded and promoted for. 

Effective delegation begins with you writing a new story; a story in which you begin to exchange fear for the prospect of greater opportunity.

How do you overcome your fear?

Your new, more successful story needs to clarify what’s at stake. 

Step 1. Start by asking yourself: What is it only I can do, given my position?

The qualifier at the end is critical. It moves your mind away from assessing your abilities and what you have been doing and towards assessing the true responsibility and accountability of your role and what you might not be addressing.

  • What obstacles, challenges and opportunities am I in the unique position to deal with?
  • What decisions am I responsible and/or accountable for?
  • What am I in the unique position to communicate? Up, down or across the organization. 
  • What am I in sole possession of? Eg. system access, compliance requirements etc.
  • What is my team counting on me for?

When I complete this exercise with my clients, they are often amazed by the opportunity that emerges for transforming their work and the renewed energy it creates.

Step 2: Time for a reality check.

Ask yourself:

  • How am I currently spending my time?
  • Are these tasks that will repeat in the future?
  • How much of my time and energy is being spent on only the things I can do, given my position? 
  • If I applied more of my time to things only I can do, how much better off would I be? My team? My organization? 
  • What opportunities emerge for my team to take on new responsibilities?

Step 3: Identify and manage your fear.

For each opportunity to delegate ask yourself what you would need to prepare yourself to actually let go. What would need to be true for you to confidently delegate this responsibility?


  • What outcome do you fear most?
  • What outcome would you rather have?
  • What must you do to ensure this outcome for yourself and your team? 
  • Does someone on your team already have the skills and is willing to take this on? (If you are unsure use this skill-will matrix)
  • Do you have the time (or are you willing to take the time) to provide the support and check-ins to delegate effectively? If not now, when?

It takes courage to make it this far.  Letting go is hard work.

Seven tips for delegating effectively

When it comes time to delegate, remember that you must not only delegate the task, but also the responsibility and authority.

Keep these 7 points in mind:

  1. Describe what/whom this work benefits and impacts.
  2. Define what a good outcome looks like.
  3. Communicate constraints and boundaries.
  4. Solicit questions and confirm understanding.
  5. Pave the way. Provide the right resources and inform other stakeholders of the authority being granted.
  6. Determine when and how you will check-in and then get out of the way.
  7. Review and acknowledge what was learned.

When you let go of fear and embrace the power of delegation you build a future bigger and better than what you could have done by yourself.

On my shelf

Deep and deliberate delegation: A new art for unleashing talent and winning back time

by Dave Stitt

Delving into the anatomy of effective delegation, and offering fresh insights into issues of trust, motivation, communication and accountability, Stitt develops a set of approaches and techniques for empowering and inspiring people around us so that great things can start happening right away, even if it’s not us doing them.

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