Identity: Delegator - March 2022

Identity: Delegator - March 2022

If you avoid delegation for any reason, (you can do it quicker and better yourself, last time they didn’t come through for you, it takes too much effort, you don’t want to burden them because they are busy, etc.), it could be time to make a change. Let the word DELEGATOR itself help keep you on track.

D – Do, Ditch, or Delegate?
First, pause to reflect on if this thing actually needs to be done at all, or at least in the way you are currently thinking of it.
  • Is it essential?
  • Is it a priority in light of other work that must be completed?
  • Does it add value? (Or is it just something we’ve always done?)

It’s worth considering in these busy times if some things can fall away. But if the answer to these questions is yes, then examine what parts of it need to be done by you and why? Notice “dump” is not on the D list. If delegating feels like you are dumping on someone, you may be. Read on.

E – Expectations.

You may think yours are crystal clear, but think again. Brene Brown describes the concept of, “paint done for me.” Detail what it will look like when your expectations are met. Put all of your assumptions on the table. Don’t shy away from this out of fear of being too prescriptive. Your delegee may have a better way of getting to done than you, and you don’t want to squash that. But neither of you want delivery day to be a disappointment because you failed to reveal what you really wanted.

L – Little bites.

My own view is that delegation need not be all-or-nothing. Sort out the various components of the delegation. Are there pieces, if not the whole thing, that you can hand off?

E Enter into a contract.

Ask your delegee to write down answers to questions about the assignment, (deliverables, deadlines, authority, resources, etc.). Verify that it matches your expectations and you both sign it.

G Guidance

Follow this simple tool from the RWHC Preceptor Training Program adapted from the One Minute Manager:

  1. Get commitment to what they are thinking – “Now that we’ve agreed on the delegation, what is your plan of action?”
  2. Probe for supporting evidence – “When you decided to do x, what led you to that conclusion?”
  3. Teach general rules – “When x happens, this is our practice and I’d want you to follow that.”
  4. Reinforce what was done right – “I really like that you thought about x; that is exactly the kind of thinking we need on this project.”
  5. Correct mistakes – As soon as possible, depending on the situation, try either, “What would you do differently to fix this?” or “Next time in this situation, try this…”
A Ask.

Delegating is not just one-way telling them what you want. It’s a two-way dialogue. Ask about their experience with the kind of work you are delegating, e.g., “What kinds of work like this have you done before? What did you like, not like, or struggle with? What do you know already about this work or skill?”


Regularly. Genuinely. Frequently. Verbally. In writing. Tangibly.

O Own your part.

Abdicate is not on the A list. This is one of the common places delegation breaks down, and again, it is often the well-meaning manager who just wants to avoid being seen as micromanaging. It’s a bit of a dance; just enough lead, just enough follow, and it depends on your experience with each other. Especially with new assignments and relationships, don’t just walk away after the agreement is made. Ultimately you are still accountable for the outcome. Stay available. Set up regular check ins. Identify milestones, the date they should be at those points, and set up check ins. Set the stage up front with something like, “I know you can be successful at this. I’m not going to look over your shoulder, but we are new at this together, so I’ll be checking in more often than usual supervision just to make sure you have everything you need for that success.”

R Remember the times you have been delegated to.

Think of a skill you do easily, without thinking. At one point you probably weren’t so good at it, but here you are, doing it with unconscious competence. Delegation will be like that too with practice.

As you think of your identity, a skillful delegator is really a nurturer of talent. That’s an identity worth striving toward.

Email me: jpreston@rwhc.com for our simple, editable delegation planning and agreement form.



Jo Anne Preston In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
Leading The Way In Five Mintues A Day

Lead the Way in Five Minutes A Day: Sparking High Performance in Yourself and Your Team, by Jo Anne Preston is currently available for purchase.

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