TregoED Blog

To Delegate or Not to Delegate – At Least Ask the Question


“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”  John C. Maxwell, American author

Few of us aspire to only accomplish “small things”.  Yet too often this is all that is possible when leaders have trouble letting go. The small things may be done to perfection, while big, life-changing ones go left unaddressed.  Meaningful and significant change is not possible without collaboration and delegation.

Most of us at one time or another have worked with or for a manager who resisted letting go of anything – or micromanaged everything and everyone.  What impact does this have?  Managers who won’t delegate leave their staff feeling frustrated, unvalued, and often cynical. Because staff capabilities are underutilized, people may lose confidence in themselves.  Staff who work for “non-delegators,”  become reluctant to do things themselves because they know the boss wants do it him/herself – or is only comfortable when it’s done their way.  The impact to morale and productivity can be profound.  However, the most devastating cost is in the lost opportunities for individuals and organizations:  the big, significant problems left untackled, the skills left undeveloped, the organizational capacity left fallow, and the initiatives and goals that falter due to lack of involvement, support and commitment.  The person who is unable or unwilling to delegate often burns out – but the effects reverberate far beyond that individual.

Perhaps you are even one of those leaders who have trouble letting go.  The first step to change is recognizing that tendency and wanting to change.  But how do you know when to delegate?  Consider delegating a responsibility when:

–          A staff member already has the skills and knowledge to do the job

–          Someone needs the opportunity to develop those skills and knowledge

–          There is adequate time to properly delegate and allow for completion

–          It is a recurring task that will need to be done again

–          The payoff to the organization or individual exceeds the risk of imperfection (and how essential is perfection, anyway?)

Effective collaboration requires effective delegation.  And yet being able to let go of things is something with which too many of us struggle.  We will further explore this essential skill in the weeks ahead.  But as you prepare for the start of another school year, consider:  what will be your crowning achievements – and can you really get there alone?