The #1 Secret & 4 tips You Need To Know To Delegate

You know you need to delegate. But do you know HOW to delegate? If you’re not getting the results you want, chances are this lies with you.

Most agree that delegation is critical to management success. If that’s true, then why are we usually left unhappy with the results we get after we delegated?

“WHY! WHY! Oh why, do I not get what I asked for?” Sound familiar?

But before you go putting the blame on those you delegate to, remember this:

Failed delegation is rarely the fault of the person to whom you delegated. Usually, it is the fault of the person delegating.

“Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half

As for the common root of failed delegation? Well, 99% of the time the leader’s instructions have not provided clarity for the person doing the work.

But you can change things and begin to get the results you expected all along. And I’m about to tell you how.

How to Delegate: The #1 Secret

Okay, here it is, the number one secret about how to delegate:


Without clarity, you’re leaving delegation up to guesswork. You’re expecting your team to read your mind. And when has that ever worked out? As nice as it would be for our team members to know what we want before even WE know what we want, this just isn’t realistic. Or fair. With a bit of effort creating clarity surrounding expectations, delegation, in general, will become much more effective.

Not only will you benefit from getting the results you want, but your team will benefit from knowing what their next move should be.

Here are four things to be clear on about how to delegate

You must be 100% clear on:

Clarity of objective: What exactly is it that needs to be done? Is an assignment as clear as it can be?

  • If a report is required, what exactly is to be completed? An email? A 1-page summary? A 10-page brief? Or, a 40-page report?
  • When is it to be completed?
  • What are the resources that are going to be available?

Clarity of responsibility: Whose assignment is it? Who does what to whom?

Clarity of time: The request was for a “quick competitive analysis.” Well, how quick is quick? A day? A week? Two weeks?

Clarity of communication: Who reports to who? When are status reports and updates due? When do you as the assigner want to know about risks and problems?

Clarity is a tough subject. It’s a challenge for many leaders. But it’s worth the work of creating it. For more on how to do that, try this post next: Be The CRO – 2 Ways to Communicate with Clarity.

So, what is the solution?

As for how to actually achieve this clarity? Personal charters!

There’s no guarantee you’ll end up precisely with what you want. But you can improve the odds by creating a charter between you and the person to whom you are delegating a task.

These ‘charters’ can be verbal, in an email or a formal written document. The point is to clarify expectations, milestones, terms & timings, schedule accountability and establish reporting expectations.

Okay, now we’ve given you the secret for how to delegate, as well as four things you need to be absolutely clear on to do so. Now it’s time for you to go out and make it happen. Communicate expectations, clearly define those expectations, and don’t assume the person you’re delegating to can read your mind.

Need some help with that? Let’s talk. Click here to start a conversation and get the results you want.

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This article was first published in 2016 and was updated in 2021.