Business organizations and teams exist to perform jobs, that are too large, too complex, or too fast-changing for any one individual to do on their own. So why do so many people and teams still try to do everything themselves? And what is the solution?

Intelligent delegation is critical to unlocking creativity and potential, gaining productivity, and maximizing the value of a team. Before we consider the key elements of intelligent delegation, let’s consider some common definitions of delegation:

  • Task assignment – giving someone else clear instructions on what, how, and when something needs to be done
  • Task dumping – giving someone else work that the owner does not want to do 

Intelligent delegation is not about offloading tasks or having someone else do the least desirable work.

Intelligent delegation engages, empowers, and develops others. People who feel that they are trusted and respected have higher levels of commitment to their work, organization, and colleagues. Empowered people think creatively, solve problems faster, and deliver higher results.

Intelligent delegators will ask themselves four questions before delegating:

  • Is there someone else who has, or can be given, the necessary information or expertise, to complete the task?
  • Does this task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
  • Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future? 
  • Do I have the time required to delegate intelligently? 

If delegation is determined to be the best route, then an intelligent delegator will follow five key steps: 

  1. Define the desired outcomes, rather than defining the exact process. 
  2. Share why you are choosing to delegate the work, why you chose them, what is in it for them, and why the work is important.
  3. Proactively prepare for challenges, constraints, and boundaries, clearly communicating where the individual can go to get help.
  4. Collaborate with the individual to define milestones and secure commitment.
  5. Once the work is completed, provide thoughtful feedback to ensure continued growth and trust.

Intelligent delegation requires time, planning, and clear communication, but following the framework laid out above can facilitate better balance and outcomes across the organization.