How to Delegate

Knowing you can’t do everything may seem obvious, but delegating responsibility can be difficult to the micromanaging leader. PM trainer Susanne Madsen offers some practical tips on how to let go and focus on the bigger picture.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!



In Review: How to Delegate

There’s a difference between giving up responsibility and delegating a task, Susanne noted. You’re still in control, but you’re not lost in the weeds, especially when your attention is better focused elsewhere.By delegating you’re not only freeing yourself up to do your job better, but you’re also helping one of your team members grow by taking on responsibility. It’s a win-win. But how to do it? Susanne offers these tips:

  • Challenge, stretch, motivate
  • Think through the job
  • Agree “what,” not “how”
  • Hand over the entire task
  • Provide support and direction

Not all tasks are created equal, however, and Susanne said there are certain ones that delegate more effectively, such as:

  • Administrative tasks
  • Work streams
  • Entire roles, such as business analysis or testing

It sounds easy enough, but it involves a certain amount of trust in your team, which you should have because you created that team for the specific purpose of doing the project at hand.If you’re still itching to learn more practical advice on how and what to delegate, read read this article in Forbes by consultant Martin Zwilling.

Pro-Tip: Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, says that 20 percent of your tasks and activities that you do during the week add up to 80 percent of the results. Those are the 20 percent of the activities you don’t want to delegate.

Video Transcription

Hi, my name is Susanne Madsen. Welcome to this whiteboard session on how to delegate. There is something I call elegant delegation. That is when you’re able to stay in control of the task you’re delegating without being in the detail, and at the same time, you grow the person who you’re delegating to. Would you not agree that that sounds elegant? Let’s look at how to do it.

Firstly, the task you are delegating must challenge, stretch, and motivate the person you’re delegating to. Otherwise, there is nothing in it for the person you’re delegating to.Also, you must think through the job thoroughly before you delegate it. There is nothing worse than being too vague and saying, “Yes, I want you to do something like that. You’ll figure it out,” then the person has no chance of knowing what is expected. In fact, the next one is really important. You must agree what to delegate, not how to get it done. What’s really important is that you agree with the other person how you are going to measure what ‘good’ looks like.

Said another way, you must agree the acceptance criteria. When you come back to me having finished the task, how are we going to judge that it is good enough? That’s what I mean by agreeing what needs to get done, but not the ‘how.’ Let the individual figure out how to do it. As long as it meets the acceptance criteria, that’s fine. It is very motivating for the person to get the autonomy to figure out how to actually do it.

Once you’ve done that, you must hand over the entire task. Don’t be a micro-manager who hovers over the person all the time. In fact, what you might do that’s really elegant is that you agree with the person up front, “When are we going to check in with each other? How often are we gonna do that?” So that you both know what is expected.

And lastly, provide support and direction. Be available whenever the person you’re delegating to has questions, but as we said before, don’t be the hog who comes over and checks up on them.Next, what are you going to delegate? Well, on a project, there are numerous items that are obvious for delegation. We all know there are many administrative tasks on a project. For instance, keeping track of time sheets, or what about looking after the budget. I’m sure that you could delegate that to a person who would find that very motivating, because they would love to learn how to track a budget.

You can also delegate work-streams or entire roles such as business analyses or testing.Another really good concept to keep in mind when you delegate is Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule. What are the 20% of tasks and activities that you do during a day or during a week that adds to 80% of your results? The 20% of activities, you should not be delegating, because that’s your sweet spot. That’s what you do really, really well. It’s the other 80% that you can look to delegate, as long as it generally challenges, stretches, and motivates someone else. In that way, you have a win-win situation.

You delegate something. It frees you up to look after something else, and it is motivating for the other person, because it is an area they would generally like to get better at and learn about.Thank you for watching. Please visit us again at

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