Mark Ellwood’s Brainy Blog of Fascinating Facts and Timely Tips

How to Delegate

All, Time Tips

Our time study data indicates that the average employee spends 19% of his or her time on administrative tasks.

This increases to 25% for managers. For many of them, delegation of some tasks would free up more time for high priority activities.

But employees make all kinds of excuses for not delegating. They justify their inefficiency through beliefs that are unfounded. If you want to make better use of your time, you’ll get more done through delegation. Catch yourself when you say one of the following. Often, the opposite is true!

  • I don’t know if I can trust her to do it.
  • I could do it better myself. He isn’t qualified to do it.
  • She doesn’t want any added responsibilities.
  • I don’t have the time to show anyone how to do it.
  • There is no one else to delegate to.
  • He already has enough to do.
  • I like doing this task, or I’m the only person who knows how to do it.
  • She messed up last time, so I’m not giving her anything else to do.

Assume that most people want added responsibilities (don’t you?). Assume they are keen to learn. Recognizes that the short term training investment will pay off in the long term.

Look around. Even though you’re not the boss, there are people who will help you if you approach them in the right way.


  • Items that can be eliminated. If you shouldn’t be doing an activity, then perhaps you shouldn’t be giving the activity away to others.  Eliminate it.
  • Minor decisions that can be found in policy
  • Fact-finding assignments
  • Preparation of rough drafts of reports
  • Problem analysis and suggested actions
  • Collection of data for reports
  • Photocopying, printing, collating
  • Data entry
  • Email sorting
  • Things you are good at and do too much of
  • Things that aren’t part of your core competency. For small businesses, these include accounting, web site design, deliveries, hardware upkeep, software help, graphic design, travel arrangements, patenting, legal issues and even HR functions such as payroll.
  • Tasks for which you are least qualified, that you dislike
  • Tasks that provide opportunities for employees to grow (Some things you can’t delegate: performance reviews, discipline, firing.)


  • Create a plan to delegate. Don’t give out assignments haphazardly.
  • Invest short term time in training to gain a long term increase in productivity.
  • Others may end up doing a better job than you can or finding new ways to complete a task.
  • Delegate, don’t abdicate. Someone else can do the task, but you’re still responsible for the completion of it, and for managing the delegation process.
  • Delegate to the right person. Don’t always give tasks to the strongest, most experienced or first available person.
  • Spread delegation around and give people new experiences as part of their training.
  • Obtain feedback from employees to ensure they feel they’re being treated appropriately. A simple “How’s it going with that new project?” might be all that’s needed.
  • Be sure to delegate the authority along with the responsibility.  Don’t make people come back to you for too many minor approvals.
  • Trust people to do well and don’t look over their shoulders or check up with them along the way, unless they ask.
  • Be prepared to trade short-term errors for long term results.


  1.  Delegate the objective, not the procedure. Outline the desired results, not the methodology. What needs to be done and when should it be finished?
  2.  Make sure the standards and the outcome are clear. To what degree of quality or detail?
  3.  Clarify the decision-making authority the delegate has.
  4.  Outline the resources available.
  5.  Ask if there is anything else they need to get started. They’ll tell you. (This can save you time spent showing them.)
  6.  Ask people to provide progress reports. Set interim deadlines to see how things are going.
  7.  If appropriate, let others know who is in charge of the task.
  8.  Give praise and feedback at the end of the project, and additional responsibilities.

Always look for opportunities to delegate, even when there appears to be no obvious person to delegate to. There usually is. Your time is worth it.


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