How to delegate get great results

When you use delegation the right way productivity increases, team engagement and collaboration increases, and the team take can on extra responsibility, writes Maree Burgess.

You’ve tried delegating to your team and it hasn’t worked out so well. You have had to send work back for them to re-do it which made them resentful. Redoing it yourself makes you resentful. Let’s face it, it would have been easier and faster to do it yourself in the first place. You may feel like you are falling into a vicious cycle of reacting, redoing and responding – something that is typical of those in a middle management role.

Done well delegation allows you tap into your potential as well as that of your team. When you first begin to delegate, there are a couple of areas that may trip you up and limit the effectiveness of what you want achieved.


This is when you buy back the task you thought you had delegated. You say things like:

  • ‘I’ll check with…’ Involving someone else means that the person you have delegated to can’t do anything until you have.
  • ‘Let me think about it…’ This takes the onus off the person to think any further about the task.
  • ‘Leave it, I’ll…’ Completely taking it back off their hands, you end up doing it anyway.

This means the delegation fails. This work remains with you because there is no progress until you do something.

Put in LIMBO

This is where you halt progress. You say things like:

  • ‘Send me something on it…’ Which means that person must draft up a plan and send it to you and then wait for your response.
  • ‘Why don’t you check with…’ When you tell someone to check with someone else, this slows down progress and can also mean they get mixed messages from that other person.
  • ‘See me later about…’ Which tells them that they can’t really do much until they have checked with you later.
  • ‘We’ll have to do something…’ Which blurs the lines of responsibility – do they go ahead and ‘do something’ or are they waiting for you to ‘do something?’

You are pausing any progress towards getting this work done. If work is paused or halted, or if you have taken it back, then you are frustrating that team member as there is no clear direction. Setting each person up for success to do their role well, and giving them the confidence to take on more and different work, is crucial.

Delegating is, at its simplest, about trust. Yet it is not so simple. If trust is in place, in terms of their capability, you will feel comfortable delegating. If that trust isn’t in place, or you don’t have enough evidence of their capability, the ‘Buy Back’ and the ‘Put in Limbo’ scenarios come into play.

Knowing someone’s level of capability is a tricky thing. The person may be capable, but you don’t yet have evidence of it. Understanding your assurance strategy is crucial; what do you need to hear and see to believe that this person can do the job?

Without this you may not get the feeling that this person can do this task to your satisfaction. If the assurance strategy isn’t in place, then you start looking over their shoulder, checking on what they are doing, contacting them daily and so on. As a result, you can turn into a bit of a control freak.

Change how you communicate with team members and how they communicate with you.

I suggest using a checklist to make sure you have covered all the bases when you delegate. The essential ingredients for clear instructions – which I use extensively when teaching people how to delegate includes the following questions:

Directions, rationale, and outcomes: Have you explained the task carefully, including the reason for completing this and the outcomes you expect once completed?

Authority: What is the range of decision making and responsibility allowed before they must come back to you for approval?

Deadline and follow up: When is the task to be completed and what are the checkpoints to review progress along the way?

Feedback and support: Do they understand what you are asking them to do, and know what support is available to them to complete this work?

When you use delegation the right way productivity increases, team engagement and collaboration increases, and the team  can take on extra responsibility. 


Maree Burgess, author of Level Up ($29.95), is a trainer, coach, facilitator, author and speaker whose practicality supports leaders and teams to create cultures that people want to be part of and perform at their best for, to greatly improve overall performance. Obsessed with building environments of excellence where staff collaborate and work well together, she is renowned for bringing out the best in teams and individuals alike.


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