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Passing Things Off – Delegation

by lyn christian on January 28, 2010

If delegation is not working for you, you aren’t doing it well.

We are always delegating. We don’t deliver our mail; we expect the internet or a postal service to do this for us. Few of us milk our own cows, we expect dairy farmers to get our morning “moo-juices” flowing. Even fewer of us build our own cars. We prefer to pick from designs already manufactured and ready to roll. It’s a sure thing, we are always using some elements of delegation in our survival system. We are fairly skilled at delegating within a collective.

Most of us are not so good at delegating on the smaller economy of scale – within our own business. There are a multitude of reasons why we don’t. We might avoid passing jobs on for reasons that include:

  • Not knowing what we can or should give away;
  • Not having enough support or knowing who to delegate to;
  • Not having enough faith in delegation to trust that things will be done to specifications;
  • Not wanting to give up the experience or the credit for the work when it is completed;
  • Fearing that unless you do it all, it will fail.
  • Not including the people we delegate to in the planning of the work projects they will be asked to do.

Rest assured that when it comes to delegation, if you do it right, you still have more control than you’d think. Delegation is a means to growth, improved effectiveness, increased efficiency and a host of other virtues. Nevertheless, you always have the ultimate control and responsibility. If delegation is not working for you, you aren’t doing it well.

We generally start to think about delegation, which is a two-way interaction, when we are knee-deep in planning, which for the entrepreneur is often a one person activity. When the people we delegate to are not part of the planning, they miss about 75% of the picture they’ll need to deliver on our expectations.

Here’s the best recipe we could find in outlining how expert delegation can occur.

First, use these three questions to guide your delegation actions. If the activity is a NO for all three questions, you can delegate it. We’ve adapted them from John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leader Within:

  1. What is required of me? In other words, ask yourself if this particular piece of work requires your personality, skills, talents, and involvement.
  2. What gives me the greatest return? You are here to make a difference and to make money. Spend time on activities that affect your profit margin with high returns.
  3. What is most rewarding? Sometimes we need to do things because we need a boost; we need to feel like we could raise our arm in the air and scream, “Yes!” All everyone to get a taste of this type of energy from the work they are doing.

Second, cement in your mind that delegation is a two-way conversation. It involves strong communication skills and regard for the people we pass to. Borrowing from the book To Do, Doing, Doneby G. Lynne Snead and Joyce Wycoff, here are important criteria to effectively hand off work:

  • Make sure the person you give the task to has both the authority and the materials and skills to complete the job. If they need to make purchases, be sure they can do so. If they need a specialized piece of information or knowledge, make sure they are capable.
  • Include these people in the planning stages of the work that will be passed to them. When we help plan out what will be done, we have greater clarity on the expectations and desired outcomes of the work we’ll be doing.
  • Share the responsibility of the final results with the person you are delegating to. Allow the person to see up front how they will be given praise or be recognized for the final result. Allow them to see how the benefits of the completed work fit into your overall goal.
  • Make agreements with the delegated party. Agree to support them as needed. Ask them to agree upon regular status checkups and to agree together on due dates.

Third, follow the process through. Follow-up often and follow-up with respect. Follow-up according to your agreed upon check-in schedule. AVOID what has been called the “dump and run” version of delegation. Without doing the actual work, do everything in your power to support the people you delegate to. Praise them for work accomplished on time and according to specifications. Clarify and explore the “how come” when things don’t work out and co-create solutions with those you wisely pick to hand off to.

Even when a task has been handed off, you still share responsibility for the work meeting expectations.

Happy passing.




About the Author:  Lyn Christian is the founder of SoulSalt, Inc., a coaching and coach training company.  She is passionate about the “free-agent” worker who wants to earn their living and live their lives by doing what inspires them.  Get more information by visiting or contact Lyn directly through

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