If you knew you could get away with it, what would you delegate?

No one’s job is perfect, there will always be something you have to do that you don’t enjoy. No surprises there, right? That being said there may be some things you could delegate. Yet there will always be work that is attached to your role whether that’s because of, for example, your level of authority or regulations.

This Andertoon’s cartoon sums it all up ...


  • It’s abdicating not delegating
  • It’s irresponsible
  • It creates undue stress on those being left to handle the situation
  • It doesn’t set anyone up for success
  • The manager’s reputation plummets: trust, reliability and integrity take a hit.

In the deep end without a life guard:

In delegation workshops, I’m often asked (read: challenged), that “throwing people into the deep end” is a good way to find out who can handle the pressure. My response to that is:

Providing challenge while remaining available for support is essential. Steps 5 (Agreed Support) and 6 (Agreed Tracking) of the 9 steps to delegating are what make the difference between a challenge working because the delegate feels confident to proceed and is supported without micromanaging or the manager constantly hovering.

The impact of abdicating or dumping tasks on others who are not the right choice for the task, will negatively impact productivity: they will most likely be ill-equipped to handle the task, they’ll be looking for an authority to make decisions. This means bottlenecking and progress thwarted. Alternatively, they may work on the task and because they are without authority may make decisions that end out being costly or even dangerous.

At the start of a short-term internship project in 1999, the manager handed over a thick report and said, “Read this, then let’s talk about how you will fix it.”

That moment, I later realised, was a tipping point for me as an employee, project manager, and future leader; and how empowering the skill of delegating can be for manager and employee both, when it’s done well. The manager set me up for success in the project, not an easy project by any means, but she knew what she was doing even if I didn’t yet. She stated that she trusted me, that she wasn’t going to micromanage or hover so if I had questions by all means ask but it was me who had the authority to achieve the desired outcome. She stepped in when I asked and she facilitated, rather than directed. When I needed her level of authority, which was really only a signature here or a nod there, I wasn’t kept waiting. We scheduled milestones and meetings so that she could be kept up to date and provide whatever support I needed.

What you can’t delegate:

  • Another team’s work to your team without prior consent.
  • Firing someone you are responsible for.
  • High risk, sensitive or legal matters that require your leadership.
  • To someone who’s on a performance improvement plan.
  • Feedback you (your role) should be giving.
  • Management decisions you’re (your role) is expected to make.
  • Financial permission that is above your level of authority.
  • To someone who is already at capacity.
  • To someone who is too new to the organisation for the type of task.

Josh Kaufman, an American soul singer and songwriter has said,

“For everything we don’t like to do, there’s someone who’s really good, wants to do it and will enjoy it.”

True words however as a productive leader you also need to account for levels of authority.

I’d love to know your thoughts…