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12 Steps to Effective Delegation

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Have you ever found yourself doing tasks that just don’t inspire you?

Have you ever delegated to someone and they didn’t get the job done, didn’t do it how you wanted it ? Didn’t take responsibility?

Without delegation your business won’t grow.

You will be stuck at the level of your own competence and won’t be able to move beyond it.

In most businesses labour is one of the biggest costs.

If you are not delegating effectively you could be wasting thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Delegating is often avoided because people don’t have a clear strategy.

It doesn’t have to be so hard. Following and practicing the 12 steps below will see you become a master delegator in no time.

There are 12 Steps to Effective Delegation

1. Understand the Processes. Map Them All Out

Mapping processes was the single most effective strategy I ever implemented in my business. Without mapping processes, it is hard to know what to delegate and to who.

This exercise took us about 2 weeks to complete but paid off almost immediately.

Your process map determines every activity from first contact with a lead, through the delivery of service, invoicing, after sales service and every step in between.

Once you are clear on your processes it becomes much easier to delegate.

Consider getting a business coach or consultant in to help with this.

2. Think the Job Through - Focus on Results

It pays to determine the exact result that you want. Think through all the actions steps it will take to get that result. Identify any knowledge gaps you have to get the result you want and find someone who has that knowledge to delegate to. Determine what the delegation will cost you. Work out what higher return activities can you be doing with the freed-up time in order to afford the delegation.

Don’t rush into delegating without thinking it through or it will create stress for you and the person you delegate to.

Ensure that the person you delegate to is clear on the result that needs to be achieved otherwise they may fixate on actions.

Delegating to people who are better than you at the task is the key to growth. Clearly communicate with them the result that you expect.
Allow them to determine the actions that will get the result.

You may also need to delegate to subordinates inside an area of your expertise who are less mature, experienced or skilled. This will require delegating specific actions, however still clearly communicate the desired results.

Determine the abilities of the person before you delegate to them.

3. Systemise & Automate

A software subscription or machine will often cost you far less than a person. Do you need to a person to do this task or can it be automated?

When you have a task you want to delegate it may pay to do a quick google search and see what systems and machines are out there.

The best tasks to automate are repetitive, daily or weekly tasks.

Is it a manual task that doesn’t require problem solving? More than likely there is a system or machine out there that can do the job.

4. Hire The Best

If you can’t automate it and need a person, it is better to hire one great worker than three average workers.

Elon Musk has a team of 48,000 people working for him and personally signs off on every single hire former Tesla recruiter Marissa Peretz told Business Insider December 2017

“He had to approve every single hire,” she told Business Insider. “We had to do written bios on every single person. The janitor. The assemblers. The cafeteria workers.”

Why? Because he is obsessed with attracting world class talent and sees it as a key determinant in realising his vision.

In the book Scaling Up Autor Verne Harnish makes the claim that one great employee can replace three good ones, keeping the total wage to revenue cost competitive.

He recommends attracting the best talent, pay above market rates and invest heavily in training and development to keep their productivity high enough to justify the increased cost.

Delegating to experts allows the business to grow beyond the limited competency of the leader.

5. Determine Ability and Time Horizons

Ensure that you delegate to the capability, space and time frames of the employee.

Competent delegates can be assigned results and outcomes.

Entry level delegates should be assigned specific actions.

Delegate to the space and time frames of the employee.

Entry level workers may work hour to hour

Senior workers day to day
Supervisors week to week
Managers month to month
Area managers quarter to quarter
General Managers Year to Year
CEO’s decades and beyond

If you assign tasks beyond an employee’s time frame they won’t know where to start, get distracted and not achieve.

If you assign tasks below an employee’s time frame they will get bored and feel micromanaged

6. Set Standards

Set standards for the result you require and set clear parameters as to what is acceptable and what is not.

When thinking through the job, make sure that you have assigned a person to the task that not only has the capability to do it but also has the desire to do it.

Outline clearly from the start the result that you expect from this task. Clearly state, using examples what will be deemed a successful completion of this task.

Micromanage until such time as the employee has proven they can be macro-managed.

7. Give Generously of Your Time at The Start

Nothing leads to ineffective delegation quicker, than rushing the hand over of the task.

Give generously of your time at the start, but let them know the time frame in which you expect them to be able to do it for themselves.

If you are delegating a result spend time clearly articulating the result you expect and answer any questions until it is clear you are on the same page.

If you are delegating an action or a task, show them how to complete the task and work alongside them until you are both comfortable that they can do it.

8. Set Timeframes & Sub-timeframes

Don’t leave your delegations open ended. Make sure there is a clear time frame on when it is to be completed. For longer tasks set sub-timeframes t

o ensure the task is progressing as planned.

It is wiser to do this on a regular basis rathe than ad hoc. A weekly or bi-weekly catch up usually works.

9. Delegate The Result, Responsibility & Accountability

Wherever possible, delegate away the result and not just the actions. Let them know that they are responsible for this task and will be held personally accountable for its successful completion.

When you delegate to experts let them set the actions and give them responsibility for the results.

If you only delegate away actions your growth will be capped by your own knowledge and abilities.

When I was an Exec Chef overseeing a large kitchen team, I gave accountabilities even to the new first years apprentice.

He would be in charge of the washing up section. Overseeing the kitchen hands and making sure it was cleaned and organised. He was held accountable every morning for the previous nights closing.

Responsibility and accountability create buy in to the role and drive people to perform.

Once you hand over responsibility don’t take it back. Don’t jump in and undermine their authority to their own subordinates. This leads to them not fully taking responsibility

10. Assign Resources

When thinking through the task make sure you have accounted for all the resources it will take to get the job done.

Clearly communicate to them what resources they have available to them to complete the task. Monitor this regularly to ensure that are not sending you broke, but ensure you have been realistic and budgeted enough resources.

11. Give Regular Feedback & Systemise Process Improvement

Regularly give feedback as to how the job is progressing. Put metrics in place so you can say with certainty it is being achieved to your satisfaction.

For long term tasks, consider setting up quarterly reviews to see if any of the job can be done more efficiently or if it can be automated.

12. Only Accept Well Thought Out, Clearly Defined Questions


Be generous with your time at the start, but once the task has been handed over, make sure that any questions you receive have been well thought out. Consider asking them to write and articulate the question.

Often questions are used as way of avoiding responsibility or worse, reverse delegating the task back to you.

If you ask your team to write out the question, often the answer is right there in analysing the problem.

This leads to you having a competent problem-solving team.

If you would like to learn more about delegating.

Consider our course, "Plan the Life You Love"

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