You know you need to delegate. Everyone’s saying it — “delegate more!” — as if delegation is the solution to all of your problems.

It could be, actually — if you do it well. It took me 10 years to crack the code, so here’s the blog post I wish I had way back when, to make learning the art of delegation easy.

What it means to delegate

Delegation is commonly understood to mean entrusting a task or responsibility to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself.

I like that the common definition leads with trust, but it doesn’t always include decisions among the examples of what can be delegated — which is unfortunate, because that’s where the real magic happens. A more modern definition might read:

Delegation can be as much about helping your team grow as it can be about helping yourself grow. It’s certainly more of an art than it is a specific, always-do-it-this-way formula. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide if and what to delegate, and to whom:

It can also be helpful to just let folks opt in. “Here are some things on my plate … if you want to own any of this or help, let me know!”

The goal of delegation

Delegation should feel like a gift, not one more thing causing yet another long day or meaningless project.

Here is how you do not want someone to whom you delegate to feel:

Why even ask me to do this if you’re just going to babysit my every move?
What was the point, if you’re just going to take credit for all the work I did?
Oh, I see, I’m doing your job for you. Why are you even here?

These are the most common results from poor delegation practices. They also earn you fancy names like micromanager, credit stealer, and advantage taker.
What to do before you even think of delegating

Before you begin to delegate, you must build a strong foundation. You need to have your team dynamic and your individual relationships with each member of your team in a healthy place. If you can’t respond with an enthusiastic _yes!_ to all of the following questions, then you have some work to do before you start delegating.

Are you self-aware? It can be tempting to tell someone how to do something you’re used to doing, maybe even really good at doing. Focus on what you need to delegate and why it matters, not how to do it (unless you are asked).

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