5 Ways To Use The New Approach To Delegation featured image

5 Ways To Use The New Approach To Delegation

By: Tom Riggs

~ 10 minute read

Leaders are too busy to succeed.

The dreadful merry-go-round is putting leadership at a breaking point.

Today’s leaders find themselves overwhelmed by an ever-expanding buffet of responsibilities:   

Hire, train, develop, motivate, engage, hold accountable, inspire, create effective teams, strategize, build vision, reward, recognize, and so on. All of which are expected to deliver results. 

Add in factors like ensuring emotional and psychological safety to managing diverse, remote and hybrid teams, and lots of change management, and it’s clear that the modern leader’s role has never been more challenging.

Many leaders are stressed out, burned out, or want out. 

In fact, research by our partners at The Predictive Index revealed that 79% of middle managers reported they were at risk of burnout. And 70% of them would go back to their former individual contributor role, if they could keep their pay. Even though leaders get paid more for a reason, these are huge red flags.

Asking leaders to take on more, add more capabilities—even to scale up their leadership skills on worthwhile responsibilities is often greeted with disdain, resentment, exhaustion or just a “silent no”. Many leaders simply cannot imagine taking on one more thing.

Leaders are too busy to succeed. This article will give you a better understand of the power of delegation. The sections of this article include…

High performing leaders are more valuable than you think.

High performers are not in your organization for the coffee.

If you have lousy coffee and a good boss, life is pretty good. If you have GREAT coffee and a lousy boss, life is NOT. Said differently, people quit bosses, rarely the organization. 

Guess who is the first and most likely to leave? Your top performers and high potentials. They have options. 

Everyone knows that high performers are valuable, but recent research reveals that high performers are up to eight times more productive than average ones.  

This is an astounding number. 8x more productive than average performers. They are even more valuable than most would have guessed. High performing leaders retain, attract, and develop more of those coveted high performers than average performing leaders.  

But what if they’re too busy to succeed? Then they are not doing the worthwhile work of retaining, attracting, and developing these high performers.

The most certain way to retain, attract, and develop high performers is when leaders are doing their first job first–being a leader, not Chief Doer. 

Leaders must move from chief doer to chief delegator.

You must redefine delegation as the most important skill for your leaders. Full stop.

Delegation gives leaders the only thing they can’t get back: time.

In order to retain, attract, and develop high performing employees, you need leaders who are delegating. But not in the traditional sense of the word “delegating.” A new definition is required. 

The new definition of delegation is a force multiplier and leadership tool backed by science and data that gives time back to leaders to do the ACTUAL work of leadership: accelerating the performance, engagement, and development of the people working for them. 

Said more succinctly, the most critical job of delegation is to create MORE high performers.

Effective delegation certainly benefits the leader, but they are not the only ones. The shift to effectively delegate not only boosts productivity and engagement of the leader’s direct reports, but also builds trust, enhances employee confidence and fosters a culture of empowerment within the team. This enables the talent bench to deepen, meaning leaders have more people to step up in the organization and drive results.

Delegation, when approached strategically, serves as a growth and productivity mechanism for both leaders and their teams. Leaders reclaim valuable time while providing team members with opportunities for development and increased responsibility.

Many leadership skills or competencies are important. But it would be difficult to find one that has more universal positive impacts in so many ways. 

There isn’t another leadership skill/competency that can do all those things and give leaders time back to do their job properly.

Leaders often face the too-busy trap.

For far too long, the ideal of being busy has been glorified. But this false glory has run its course. Being too busy has become the norm rather than the exception, a badge of shame that, frankly, no one really needs. This leadership epidemic of constant busyness is more a sign of delegation deficiency than a testament to indispensable value. The antidote to this epidemic lies in the strategic application of delegation.

So, in the quest to shift from being the Chief Everything Officer to the Chief Delegator (or, Chief Force Multiplier, if you prefer) it’s about getting over fears (and ourselves). It’s realizing that delegation isn’t about losing control but gaining a more dynamic, capable team. Let’s face it, that’s a win-win, even if it does mean letting go of the reins… just a tad.  (We’re looking right at you, “Control Enthusiasts” :))

This approach doesn’t just lighten the load for leaders; it turbocharges the productivity and effectiveness of their teams. When team members are trusted with responsibilities, empowered to make decisions, and given the reins, they grow.  Rapidly and remarkably.  They transform creating a virtuous cycle of empowerment that drives the organization forward.

The true measure of leadership success isn’t how much you can hoard onto your own plate, but how much you can effectively delegate to empower others. In the end, the imperative of delegation in leadership isn’t just about getting things done; it’s about creating a legacy of empowered people, high performers who can carry the torch forward, blazing new trails for the organization. That is how you truly succeed.

The good news is this—there aren’t many things that are truly in a leader’s control.  

But empowering others through delegation is within a leader’s control.  

Leaders can and do choose to have a profound impact on their team.  And MindWire’s work with Clients on delegation is overwhelmingly clear: Leaders are just as desperate to do this, as their employees are desperate for them to do so.  But they need help in how to do it successfully.  

Data-backed delegation presents a stunning opportunity.

Leaders save 13 hours a week when they delegate properly.

Let’s review the evidence from participants at MindWire’s Delegate Like A BOSS Workshop.

Research with MindWire clients through MindWire’s Delegate Like a Boss workshop has identified a stunning opportunity for leaders: As part of the workshop, participants calculate how much time per week they would gain if they started doing their leadership job properly, including delegating effectively.  

The participant average is 13 hours/week saved/gained.  In other words, they would get 13 hours/week freed up that they could then focus on doing their most important job:  leading.

That’s 52 hours/per month and 624 hours/year.  And that’s just for one leader.  Imagine if 20, 50, or even 100 leaders started achieving even 50% of those 13 hours/week.

13 hours/week/leader is astounding, but only part of the story. Until they participated in our process, leaders (even very good ones) were unaware of the magnitude of the opportunity. How is it possible that leaders aren’t able to spot this tremendous opportunity to save time and increase performance? 

What leaders have shared in the Delegate Like A Boss workshop is that they thought delegating properly, consistently, and effectively is difficult and reserved for only the most gifted of leaders. Myth busted. Delegating in the new way – that is data-backed delegation – is NOT difficult, it’s rather formulaic. Further, proper delegation in the new format is accessible to all leaders. 

Leaders often have baggage with delegating effectively. Often, they feel like they must do it perfectly. Instead, our investigations into this topic find that any improvements on the delegation front are beneficial–leaders need not be perfect or capture every possible hour immediately for an organization to benefit. In fact, actions and improvements on this front can be immediate (weeks, not months or years), measurable and sustainable.

The findings are clear: by their own calculations, leaders are “too busy to succeed” and as a result, they are not getting the performance, engagement and development from their people and teams that they should be.

This must change. Now, with data-backed delegation, it can.

Examine the quick delegation calculation if you want ROI immediately.

If the average leader could gain 13 hours per week to do their leadership job properly by effectively delegating, think about the impact that could have on a department, or your entire organization:

Number of Leaders Hours | Week Gained Hours | Year Gained*

  • 10 | 130 | 6,240
  • 50 | 650 | 31,200
  • 100 | 1,300 | 62,400

Maybe you’re a bit skeptical about the numbers.  Discount this data by 25%, 50%, even 75%–it’s still a staggering productivity gain, or a massive opportunity missed. What could it mean to leader and employee productivity to have leaders properly focused on doing their first and most important job–leading their teams? Everything. 

5 Steps to Delegation Success.

Practical, data-driven ways to help leaders find the corporate holy grail – more time.

While redefining delegation, five essential steps become apparent. While each of the five steps below has stand-alone value, integrating these five steps into your approach creates exponential impact. 

  1. Use Data To Delegate
  2. Delegate To All, Not Just Your Favorites
  3. Match the Delegation Work to the Person
  4. Delegate Authority, Not Just Tasks
  5. Make Your Delegation Intentions Known

1) Using Data To Delegate

All of this starts with a leader doing a self-evaluation to identify their own opportunity. How many hours per week could I gain IF I started doing my proper leadership job and delegating effectively? What do I need to start doing, stop doing, continue doing?  Why have I been reluctant to do so?

Then, they use data to understand their direct reports’ strengths and caution areas, motivators, and communication needs. It allows the leader to better understand their own capabilities as a delegator (what they might naturally do well and not do well) and what each direct report will need and respond best to. 

A leader can make a few critical adjustments with each person and maximize success. Using and understanding each team member’s strengths and motivators increases a leader’s EQ and their own confidence in delegating successfully. At MindWire, we shortcut this process by using the Predictive Index, but not having it will not stop a leader from effectively delegating, just slow them down a tad.

2) Delegating to All, Not Just Your Favorites

Too often, leaders are only really delegating to their best few, trusted, proven high performers–their usual suspects. The new definition of Delegation means that there is a delegation plan and process in place for every single member of the team, at all times–not just the high performers–along with an expectation of every employee that they will grow and enhance their impact. You can’t afford to have just a few oars in the water – all oars in the water means the boat goes faster, smoother and is balanced.

3) Matching the Delegation Work to the Person

“All Oars in the Water” does not mean a leader delegates arbitrarily.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  Leaders regularly evaluate the work and provide lower complexity, lower stakes, lower risk work to new, unproven, inexperienced or struggling employees and likewise, provide their most complex, high visibility, high stakes work to their highly proven, high performing (and often high potential) employees. 

This is a process, not an event that the leader takes time to periodically review and update, to meet changing needs of the organization and evolving capabilities of their employees.

The best leaders understand that they delegate work to everyone on their team. No exceptions.

4) Delegating Authority, Not Just Tasks

Effective leaders understand that the lion’s share of development (70%) comes from real work assignments, supported with training (10%), coaching and feedback (20%). These leaders also understand that the fastest and most effective way to drive development, ownership, productivity and engagement is to delegate real authority, not just tasks. They understand where they have the autonomy to send the work out and how to ensure their reputation shifts from creator of great work to multiplier of great work. 

Leaders will rightfully consider what that means for differing levels of employees, but nonetheless delegating real authority is a hallmark and a must.  Delegating real authority is one of the keys to getting time back for leaders and forces leaders to have necessary and important conversations about expectations, decision rights and processes, responsibility and accountability and other related items that are fundamentals of good performance–not just effective delegation.

5) Making Your Delegation Intentions Known.

Leaders who are delegating effectively use several techniques to hold themselves accountable. 

  1. They build a plan for what they will start, stop and continue to be able to do their leadership job properly. 
  2. They set a goal for how many hours they will gain back each month, as they work toward that goal.  
  3. They communicate their intentions to their team, tell them what is in this delegation approach for them as employees (development, of course) and ask for their feedback and support to make it work in their organization. Effective leaders understand the nuances of “dumping work” onto their people vs. strategically and intentionally developing their team and positioning so that its a win for all. 
  4. They track the impact against their goals to ensure they and their team are realizing the benefits of this new form of delegation.

These five steps are promising and exciting.

The Challenges of Delegation for Leaders.

There is remarkable consistency in the challenges leaders have with delegation

Many leaders come to the same conclusion when it comes to delegation.

As you’d suspect, there are naturally some challenges with helping leaders adopt this new definition of Delegation. Fortunately (or unfortunately, you decide) there are common themes as to why leaders aren’t delegating properly today and what is in their way.  

Here are the top reasons they list (and the vast majority of these people are high-quality, well-intentioned leaders):

  • “They aren’t ready.”  
  • “My people are too busy.” 
  • “I would never ask someone to do something I can’t/don’t do myself.”  
  • “I don’t have time to teach them.”  
  • “I worry that…”  
  • “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”  
  • “I like doing this.”
  • “I’m the best person on my team at doing this…”
  • “I’m not sure where to start.”
  • “It will get done faster if I just do it myself.”
  • “It’s OK, I don’t like to take vacation, I like to work.”

You get the idea.

This has all the markings of a vicious cycle of burn out, overwhelm, and reduced bandwidth for leaders. 

Leaders are also hesitant to delegate fully because they aren’t sure what work to give to which of their people. Once they do delegate work, they struggle with how to effectively communicate, lead, motivate each person uniquely, and effectively to ensure success. 

There is one more critical stumbling block:  Leaders are often just delegating tasks, but not true authority. Delegating tasks without authority robs leaders of the time savings to do their roles correctly. Further, giving out tasks with no authority robs people of the fastest, most effective engagement, performance and development tool at their disposal:  employees who truly own the work.

Despite those challenges, there is reason for not just optimism, but conviction that leaders can, will and do overcome those challenges. Once leaders document and discuss what is in their way/why they aren’t delegating more, every single client group from the Delegate Like A Boss workshops with has come to these three same conclusions:

  1. The problem is me, not my employees.
  2. I actually have control and can do a lot about this. 
  3. I need to start right now. 

Ready to Delegate? Start Here.

Want to get started on this path, or help leaders in your organization do so?  Check out the first worksheets from the Delegate Like a Boss workshop, to help you quantify how much time you could save. Do you land at 13 hours a week like our other participants?

Candice Frazer

CEO with a passion for people and performance spanning multiple roles and industries. A Spartan super fan and golf aficionado, he's focused on talent development and empowering teams for success.