The path of least pain

I am sure that most of us would agree, it is quite unlikely that when the time comes and we have finally retired we would utter the words ‘I wish I had worked harder.’ Given our working life again, wouldn’t it be good to ensure that we made best use of our time and were more productive?

There are three ways to make better use of your time:

  • Stop doing lower priority jobs and concentrate on the things that matter.
  • Get more effective at what you do by establishing a distraction-free work routine.
  • Delegate more.

The ability to get things done through effective delegation is a cornerstone of good self-management. It is also an essential part of getting the best out of your people. Understanding a few basic concepts makes delegation easier.

Delegation has always been recognised as a key ingredient of successful management and leadership. But in the 1980s delegation underwent a crisis of confidence. Managers were intent on progressing as quickly as possible up the corporate ladder, working long days rather than delegating and risking others sharing the glory. In the corporate cut and thrust, delegation appeared to be a sign of weakness.

The 1990s saw a shift in attitudes. No longer was delegation an occasional managerial indulgence. Instead, it had become a necessity. With organisations becoming flatter and hierarchies disappearing, managers now had a far wider span of control than ever before. In that situation, delegation is vital. The trouble is that delegation is like driving a car. No one admits to being a bad delegator.

Good delegation is hard work and requires substantial confidence and faith. Managers, after all, are usually delegating tasks which they are accomplished at carrying out, to less experienced people.

Delegating is being prepared to trust people to do a task and achieve results without your interference. It is easier said than done. Managers who make delegation work for them are those who have eliminated fear. They do not delegate and then worry that the task won’t be done well enough and they will be blamed, and have to sort it out.

They have confidence in their own position and are not fearful that the person will do too good a job and undermine their position and authority. They also make time to delegate properly. Initially, delegation does involve committing time, but there are substantial time savings for the future.

The role of managers is changing from controlling and planning to coaching and acting as a resource.

Why we should delegate.

  • To give you more time for more important activities.
  • To develop and motivate your people.
  • To make use of other people’s specialist skills.
  • To ensure an even spread of work across your team.
  • To do things quicker by concurrent activity.

What we should delegate.

  • Routine jobs, together with attendant authority and power to make decisions.
  • Functions which make you over specialise.
  • Jobs that others can do better, and probably more cheaply too.
  • Work that will create variety for a subordinate – job enrichment.
  • Work that will develop a subordinate.

What we should NOT delegate.

  • Setting up teams or team objectives.
  • Communicating decisions, objectives and achievements.
  • Discipline of subordinate’s colleagues.
  • Confidential, security and policy matters restricted to your level.
  • Accountability for the task.
  • New tasks without guidance or training.

In the complex, dynamic, competitive business environment we now find ourselves in, delegation is an essential tool for sustainable success.

It is quite possible that when the time comes and the unenlightened finally retire, we could hear them utter the words ‘I wish I had delegated more.’


“Delegation crowns the process of developing people: it is the seal of recognition, respect and trust.”

John Adair




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