The Most Overlooked Success Tool

Many extremely talented professionals, especially young ones, have trouble delegating. They want to make sure everything turns out right. What better way to do this than to do the entire project yourself? Or at least to be closely involved in each step along the way that you can quickly step in if there’s a problem.


In contrast, highly successful people delegate a lot more than everyone else, even if they don’t have someone formal like employees to give the work to. Their mindset is that they can get a lot more done through other people by using their influence, self-confidence and leadership skills. Instead of them doing what they can do, they focus on what everyone can do.


Ironically, the transition between extremely talented (doing most things yourself) and highly successful (helping a lot of other people do most things themselves) is often challenging and frustrating. To begin , it’s a strange idea for most, it takes time to build up the confidence that it actually works and requires a lot more maturity on your part. However, learning how to effectively delegate will save you time, give others the opportunity to develop their potential, allow you to develop your management skills, promotes teamwork and frees up your time so you can think, plan and create more effectively. Sounds like it’s worth it!

Roadblocks to Delegation

If delegation was easy, a lot more people would be doing it. Not only does it take a mindset that you’re going to start working on it and sticking to it when things get tough, it takes time to develop the people to whom you’re going to be asking to do the work. Are any of these challenges keeping you from delegating more or more often?


  • Lack of time to train people.
  • Feeling that you can do the job faster.
  • Not trusting others to do the job correctly.
  • Fear of relinquishing control of the project and all the details.
  • Fear of being replaced by someone who can do the job as well or better than you.
  • Fear of piling more work on people who are already overworked.
  • Having to organize yourself before being able to organize others.

Being aware of your obstacles is the first step. Training yourself to effectively delegate is the second.


Effectively Assigning Work…Running the Delegation Bases

A simple way to think about delegation is to use a baseball metaphor. When a batter hits the ball, he or she has to safely travel around the bases and eventually cross home plate to score.


If you are indispensable – you will never be promoted because you’re too valuable in your current role!


To get to first base, you have to consider “who” you’re delegating something to. What are their current skills, abilities and developmental needs? You have to find something that they can do and that they are ready for. A slight stretch beyond their current abilities is much better than asking them to do something so difficult that they will only fail and become frustrated. Not everyone is ready for—or should be given—the same assignments!




To get between first and second base, focus on the “what.” Agree on standards, measurements (hours, budget, etc.) and expectations (results, skills, resources). Just because you ask someone to do something doesn’t mean that you’re both on the same page. Take a few minutes and make sure both of you are clear on exactly what needs to be accomplished and what the general approach to reaching that goal should be.


Rounding second to third is about the deadline or “when.” Agree on due dates, checkpoints (be available) and get commitments. If you don’t talk about deadlines and how you plan to see that progress is being made along the way, you’ll be tempted to step in and do the work yourself or become frustrated with the person you asked to help you. Avoid both by clarifying when you want whatever finished.


Coming home is all about their “permission to act.” Decide how much responsibility you will also delegate. This is the trickiest part, because the amount of permission you give often ties into how much you trust someone and how much they trust themselves. Here’s your basic range of options:


  1. Look into the situation. Get all the facts and report them to me. I will decide what to do.
  2. Identify the problem. Determine alternative solutions and the pluses and minuses of each. Recommend one for my approval.
  3. Examine the issues. Let me know what you intend to do, but do not take action until you check with me.
  4. Take action on the matter. Let me know what you did.
  5. Take action. No further contact with me is necessary.


Option 1 is a less risky than option 5, but the potential payoff is a small fraction of what it could be. Challenging yourself to try options 4 and 5 forces you to be at your best and takes a long time to develop.


At the end of the day, your decision is simple. Do you want to be extremely talented or highly successful? If you’re reading this, you’re already extremely talented. Highly successful is more elusive, but a whole lot easier once you become an effective delegator. When you get so good at it that your family and friends tell you that “this is a no delegation zone,” chances are you’ve figured out how to get way more accomplished than everyone else.