Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Play 7 - Learn how to delegate effectively

As you become more comfortable with your new role, you will find that your deliverables, commitments, and action items will increase exponentially. This will feel overwhelming at times, even for those who have been a supervisor previously. It is not up to you alone to do all of these things. Instead, you need to delegate to your team.

Delegation is hard, or at least it feels hard, because of a few reasons:

  • You may feel you are giving up control of work that you are responsible for
  • You are not sure if you can trust someone else on the team to do the work
  • You are unsure of who is most capable to do a task
  • You may not know what to delegate that’s currently on your plate
  • You may not know who on your team has the capacity or schedule to allow them to take on the work

In other words, if delegation is viewed through the lens of coaxing others to do the work you feel is yours, it will be hard and it will result in a lot of challenges and frustration.

It takes practice to become comfortable and effective with delegation. Delegation is a skill that is critical to your success and ability to deliver results, and it is also critical to the health and growth of your team(s). You physically cannot do everything yourself, and delegation provides team members with the opportunity to stretch themselves and learn something new. Shift your perspective to view your work as the work of the team you supervise (especially in the case of supervising other supervisors!) and as an opportunity to train others up with new skills and knowledge.

Delegation gives your team members a chance on new tasks; be sure to make the time to mentor and coach, as necessary. Eventually, your team members will be able to take greater ownership and responsibility. This expands and develops the skills across your team, and primes everyone for their next career opportunities as well.

There is no magic formula for delegation. Here are several dimensions and questions you can consider to help decide what to delegate, and to who:

  • Trust-based: Is this a task that absolutely cannot be missed and/or is there no room for error? It probably makes sense to delegate to the person whose track record you know the most.
  • Learning-based: Is this a task that would afford someone the ability to learn a new skill, and/or there is room for mistakes or imperfection? This is a perfect task to delegate to someone to grow their skills and teach them something new!
  • Exposure-based: Is this a task that would help you advocate or champion someone, and provide them with additional exposure in the organization? Tasks of this nature are great for someone pursuing leadership opportunities or promotion.
  • Capability-based: Is this a task that requires a deep level of knowledge/expertise? This is probably best assigned to a subject matter expert (SME) on the team.

Note that none of this is set in stone! Oftentimes, you will have to weigh each of these dimensions. This requires you to have built strong connections with each of your team members and understand their capabilities, strengths, growth opportunities, interests, and motivations. Delegation can be an effective tool for this, as it will quickly demonstrate how your team members behave and react to the work.

The , external,delegation tools list from The Management Center is full of resources, such as how to clarify responsibilities, how to be deliberate and intentional when delegating and prioritizing tasks, knowing what to delegate based on comparative advantage, and much more.

Action Items

  • Learn about each of your team members: their capabilities, strengths, growth opportunities, interests, and motivations; find these out in 1:1s!
  • Review the work on your plate: how might delegation be leveraged to train up your team members?

Play 7 Reflection Questions

  • What kind of culture currently exists on your team, when it comes to delegation? For example, did your predecessor delegate tasks, and if so, how did it typically go? What might you want to keep, add, or change about delegation on your team?
  • How do you handle it when someone completes a task differently than you would have? How do you focus on progress versus perfection?

Play 7 Case Studies

  • Your business unit is constantly being assigned high-profile projects. You have delegated multiple tasks to several members of your team. You have noticed that tasks are not getting completed by the assigned deadlines. When you ask your team why they have not completed their delegated tasks, they have all said that they are burned out and overwhelmed by multiple, competing demands. What are your next steps? What will you do to keep the team motivated?
  • You have two high performers assigned to your team and both have a history of superb performance. They both want to progress in the organization and both work hard to ensure the success of projects. You have been assigned a project that will be monitored directly by your organization’s Executive Director, who has asked you to select the best person to work on the project. How do you decide who will work on the project?
Return to the top of the page ^

An official website of the U.S. General Services Administration

Looking for U.S. government information and services?
, external,Visit