The Management Centre
Call us: +44 (0)20 7978 1516
New dates: Project Management Book Now

Delegate don’t drown!

Delegate don't drown

“Being a manager means I have more on my plate than ever and trying to keep up with my own workload as well as those of my team is a big job. I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it all. What can I do?”

Laura SlaterOn our management training programmes, lots of busy managers tell me they want to take control of their time, to do more with their time, and, most important, see results. But, they also say, this isn’t happening because there is simply too much to do in too little time. Interestingly, these same people are also often reluctant to delegate.

Effective delegation comes brings you a fresh pair of eyes and encourages new ideas or a different approach. It helps your staff to grow and develop through tackling new kinds of work and approaches. And of course, it frees you up to move other work forward.

But if delegation is so great, what’s stopping us doing it? When I ask the busy managers, they tell me:

  • It’s too risky: what if something goes wrong and I need to spend more time fixing it?

It’s true, you need to weigh up the risk to you, your colleague or the project/task if something goes wrong, and only then decide whether it’s appropriate to delegate. If the risk is low or can be mitigated, then delegate. Find ways to make it safe, with plenty of reviews and check-ins.

  • It’s quicker to do it myself: it takes longer to explain what needs doing than if I do it myself.

In the short term this may be the case, but keep in mind the longer-term benefits when someone is up to speed. If this is a task you do on a regular basis, delegate it – you are likely to gain the time back quickly and save yourself time in the long run.

  • They might do it better than me: then I’ll look bad, and they might think I’m an incompetent manager.

Wrong! This means you found the right person for the job – and reflects well on your ability as a manager to lead others to get the best result.

Don’t let these worries stop you getting the real benefits of delegation: development, learning – and time. At =mc we use a simple tool to help you identify what you can’t delegate, what you can delegate and what you should delegate.

Take a piece of paper and draw three circles like the ones below. Then:

  • In the central circle list those tasks and responsibilities that are uniquely yours – requiring your level of skill and ability. For example, you can’t delegate one-to-one performance conversations, or signing off on important budgets.
  • In the middle circle list those tasks and responsibilities that could be delegated – to an appropriate colleague. Think about when you go on holiday, are there activities your team can pick up? Are there things you could teach or show others that would help them learn and grow?
  • In the outer circle list those tasks and responsibilities that should be delegated – that you shouldn’t be doing. These may be activities you find hard to let go of. Identify these activities now, even if you can’t delegate them just yet. For example, are you running reports and creating spreadsheets when your job is to analyse the results and make decisions? How could you hand the first part of the process over to someone else?

Circles of delegation

Use this tool to figure out what you can delegate – and then make a delegation plan. Learn to swim, not drown.

What’s next?

Come along to our Emerging Managers Programme to find out more about how to delegate, as well as a range of other skills to help you become a more effective manager. If you’re keen to learn more tools to manage your time more effectively, then Managing Multiple Priorities is for you.

To talk to us about particular challenges you’re having with delegating, managing or any other aspect of your role, call 020 7978 1516 or email me at

Share Delegate don’t drown!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email