8 Practices of Leaders Who Delegate Successfully (HBR)

This is a snippet from an insightful article that appears on Harvard Business Review

2015 Gallup study of the entrepreneurial talents of 143 CEOs on the Inc. 500 list showed that companies run by executives who effectively delegate authority grow faster, generate more revenue, and create more jobs.

According to John C. Maxwell, author of Developing the Leaders Around You, “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”

Yet, for many leaders, delegating feels like something they know they should do, but don’t do. And the roadblock often begins at the top.

Deborah Grayson Riegel

  1. They pick the right person — and it isn’t always about who can do it. Who needs to develop these skills? Who has capacity? Who has shown interest? Who is ready for a challenge? Who would see this as a reward? Successful delegators also explain why they chose the person to take on the task.
  2. They’re clear about what the person is responsible for and how much autonomy they have. In Drive: The Surprising Science About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink writes that people often want autonomy over task, team, technique, and time. Successful delegators let their team members know exactly where they have autonomy and where they don’t (yet).
  3. They describe the desired results in detail. This includes setting clear expectations about the outcome (“what it is”), how the task fits into the bigger picture (“why we’re doing it”), and criteria for measuring success (“what it should look like when done well”).
  4. They make sure that team members have the resources they need to do the job, whether it’s training, money, supplies, time, a private space, adjusted priorities, or help from others.
  5. They establish checkpoints, milestones, and junctures for feedback so that they neither micromanage nor under-lead.
  6. They encourage new, creative ways for team members to accomplish goals. It’s important for delegators to set aside their attachment to how things have been done in the past, so that they can invite, recognize, and reward novel approaches that work.
  7. They create a motivating environment. Successful delegators know when to cheerlead, coach, step in, step back, adjust expectations, make themselves available, and celebrate successes.
  8. They tolerate risks and mistakes, and use them as learning opportunities, rather than as proof that they shouldn’t have delegated in the first place.

Delegating well helps leaders maximize their resources, ensuring that they’re focusing on their highest priorities, developing their team members, and creating a culture where delegation isn’t just expected — it’s embedded in the culture.