Becoming an effective leader

2.2 - Review own ability to motivate, delegate and empower others

What to delegate

As you prepared your Job Breakdown Worksheet, you probably identified several tasks that you could delegate. To help you hone your list further, consider these five situations—they’re all excellent opportunities to delegate.


◆      Delegate when the activity doesn’t make the most of your abilities but does make the best of someone else’s.

Are you a “task person,” terrific at getting things done but not as accomplished when it comes to working with people? Then perhaps you could delegate attending a meeting, helping customers, or serving on a task force to one of your employees. On the other hand, if you’re more of a “people person,” perhaps one of your employees would be better than you are at taking inventory or doing another task where accuracy is paramount.


You can also delegate when specialized knowledge is needed and someone else has more of it than you do. Perhaps your field has become quite complicated, and you have difficulty keeping up on a certain issue. Is there someone who has expertise in that area or who is quite interested in it?


◆      Delegate when the payoff is low.

This payoff might be a personal one, but first and foremost, it means a company payoff. Consider any activities that are simply trivial, day-to-day activities rather than key tasks.

Remember, as a supervisor or manager, you should focus on strategic planning, directing, and other managerial tasks that will help your company succeed.


◆      Delegate when the job is repetitive.

This is an excellent opportunity to delegate. The payoff for your time investment is high because once you’ve trained an employee to do this task, time is freed up for you every time he or she does it. Although spending 15 to 20 minutes a day on a repetitive task may not seem like much, it quickly adds up to a major block of time better spent elsewhere.

Remember, your repetitive duties may seem like drudgery to you, but they may be novel and interesting to someone else. For instance, perhaps travel has lost all its spark for you but might be a real perk for one of your employees. Or perhaps scheduling employees’ work hours is a complex, time- consuming job to you but might be an interesting challenge to someone else, and it would give that person a broader perspective on how your whole operation works.


◆      Delegate when you have much more expertise than the activity needs. 

Many of the jobs you do probably don’t require your level of ability and experience. Perhaps it’s time to give another person a chance; after all, those jobs would be new and interesting to someone else.


◆      Delegate when you need to develop your employees.

In some cases, you may be doing activities others could do simply because you enjoy them. But delegating in order to develop your employees is smart for three important reasons:


•        Giving your employees interesting things to do will help them stay motivated.


•        Delegating a fun task shows employees that you care about them. It’s easy to tell people you care about them, but this demonstrates it convincingly.


•        When you give your employees opportunities to build their skills, you’re readying replacements for the time when you want a promotion. After all, no one will allow you to move up if your department will be a shambles without you!


Knowing When Not to Delegate

Before you’ve assigned every possible task to one of your employees, be aware that there are three situations in which you should never delegate:


◆      Never delegate the responsibility for disciplining an employee.

For both practical and ethical reasons, a reprimand or termination should always come from the manager or supervisor.



◆      Never delegate praising an employee.

It’s enjoyable to give positive feedback, and it forms a bond between you and your employees. It also means more to employees when the praise comes from you than when it comes from someone else. In fact, employees may even resent it if they work especially hard and you think so little of their dedication that you send someone else to toss them a compliment.


◆      Never delegate when a situation is confidential.

What’s confidential? Any time a situation involves personnel records, such as disciplinary action, salaries, or medical information. Examples also include tasks involving proprietary information, trade secrets, certain customer data, or security data—all these tasks should remain with you.