Ruth’s frustration was on the rise, to put it politely, she couldn’t work out why sometimes delegating tasks to others worked and sometimes it pretty much blew up in her face. Even when she thought she had a reliable employee, something would go off track; or she thought a task would be simple enough to hand over to someone it either wouldn’t get done or wouldn’t be done to the right standard. It didn’t take long for Ruth to simply avoid delegating. 

There are three key areas the need to be addressed that will determine whether a task can be delegated or not:

1.  The Employee

If the employee does not have the skill, time or organisational authority then the manager needs to find someone else.

2. The Authority

There will be certain tasks that the organisation determines need to be handled at certain levels of the organisation. At times, these tasks may seem menial and it could be tempting to delegate the work to someone else. However if there is a problem the person with the determined authority will be responsible. If there are smaller components to the task that can be delegated that may be worth exploring, however as the manager you hold the overall responsibility.

3. The Task

Some tasks may seem simple and straight forward to one person and have been completed routinely for a while yet may be completely new or foreign in to another employee. Ruth has said, “but it’s easy, if I can do it, anyone can.”. Not so much! The way in which a new task is delegated can also contribute to an increased level of stress, leading to procrastination or increased risk of errors. As a professional speaker, jumping on stage and speaking in front of an audience is easy for me, it lights me up and I love it. So for me to say to any one else that public speaking is easy – if I can do it any one can – might be true however it negates the learning, years of experience, and mistakes and lessons I have under my belt to get to this level of speaking.

Deciding what not to do

is as important as

deciding what to do.

(Image source:

Jessica Jackley

Founder of Kiva

This quote from the founder of the Kiva, Jessica Jackley, is worth considering. It’s not about not or avoiding delegation, it’s about understanding the 3 key areas that need to be considered in your delegation decisions: when you know who and what not to delegate that instantly helps you determine what you can delegate and to whom.

To take it further here are some questions you might consider when determining whether to delegate or not:

  1. Is there a formal authority assigned to this task? If so, what level of employee can be given this task?
  2. What is the risk involved in delegating the task to the employee?
  3. Has the employee done this work before?
  4. Does the employee have the skills, even if they’ve not exactly done this task before?  
  5. How complex is the task? Does complexity match employee skill and/or time available to complete the task, learn the task?

I’d love to know your thoughts…