Why leaders should invest in delegating

By Ron Monteiro
Jun 18, 2024
Why leaders should invest in delegating
Photo credit: apfDesign/iStock/Getty Images

In this podcast episode, speaker, facilitator, and coach Ron Monteiro, who is a CPA, CMA, in Ontario, explores how you can master the art of delegating. Part of our Coffee Chats with CPABC podcast series.

Ron will be among a group of industry experts presenting at CPABC’s PD Nexus: Business & Leadership Insights virtual conference on July 25. Join us for an insightful day of professional development that will leave you with the skills and inspiration to amplify your impact. Reserve your place today

Delegating can improve a leader's effectiveness, strengthen team bonds, and enable others to develop new skills. But it requires a thoughtful approach; without clear communication, proper resources, and ongoing support, ineffective delegation can leave you just as busy as before. I believe anybody can delegate successfully if it's done by using some of the best practices below.  

Why we keep holding on to work

First off, what prevents us from delegating? We often have too much to do, but we keep holding on to all of our responsibilities. Maybe we think it's just easier to keep doing things ourselves as opposed to training someone else. As a CPA, I understand how busy we are and delegating involves a short-term commitment that many busy accounting professionals struggle to find the time for. 

How to start shifting our thinking and actions 

I look at delegating through a return on investment (ROI) perspective – when you're making an investment, usually there's an upfront cost. If you’re hesitant to hand off work, consider that it will be an investment that's going to pay dividends in the future. Delegating will free up your time to work on more strategic projects and focus on leadership activities that can increase your team’s performance.

In addition, after your team member has successfully completed the task not just once but multiple times, you will see even more of an ROI in time savings, not to mention skills expansion within your team. One of our most important duties as leaders is to develop the next generation, so if we don’t delegate, it's a disservice to them. Delegating can also increase engagement as team members progressively complete more complex and high-value work.

Using a delegating framework  

When delegating, the goal is to do so in a supportive and engaging manner to set your team member up for success. But delegating may be a new skill for leaders, especially new managers, so it can be helpful to follow a framework that provides a thorough process. One that I’d suggest comes from Clear Concept Inc. founder, Ann Gomez. It's  ART of Delegating Framework , which is composed of three steps – Assign, Review, and Teach. 

Let’s look at stage one – Assign. Here, we go through the why, what, who, how, and when of the task. Along with going over deadlines and the technicalities of what needs to be done, you can discuss why the task is important and the value it brings to the organization. For each step at this stage, there are also certain best practices to focus on. For example, let’s take the “when.” If you’re assigning a task and setting a deadline for completion, you wouldn’t send an email and simply say, "Today's May 31st, so can you have this work completed by June 30th?" It’s important to schedule a couple of interim check-ins to support the person doing the work.

Increase understanding and purpose with these tips

Often when we are assigning work, we finish the conversation by asking, "Do you understand?" That is likely the worst question to ask. When most people are put on the spot they will reply yes, even if they aren’t clear on things. Instead, try to confirm understanding by saying something like, "Tell me what your first step's going to be” or “Do you mind walking me through the approach you're going to have?" Asking open-ended questions is a wonderful way to get a sense of the level of understanding. If it becomes clear that the person doesn’t understand what they need to do, then you will need to spend more time on coaching.

Another tip is to be open to multiple paths. Ultimately, you know what the end goal is, but are you willing to let your team member explore different and maybe more efficient ways to get there? This type of openness can help team members feel empowered and lead to innovation. Lastly, people are more engaged and invested in their work when they feel it has purpose. It’s important to explain why this work is important and how it connects to the organization’s overall objectives.

Keeping the monkey off your back: Delegating pitfalls 

When we delegate, sometimes we set the bar for the end result too high – for example, at the level we perform. But if we're an expert at a given task, we should think this through. Maybe instead of setting the bar at perfection, we set it a little bit lower. In some instances, we also need to be able to let our team members fail forward since as they fail, they learn. Of course, this will depend on the task and its complexity, urgency, and who receives the end result. If the task is for the CEO, we're not going to let people fail, but if the task is internal to a team, perhaps there's some flexibility.

After work has been handed off, there can be a temptation for the delegator to jump back in with their expertise and take over the task; this commonly happens during check-in meetings or interim reviews. This situation, where a busy manager has a number of tasks on their plate – or monkeys on their back – and leaves a check-in with even more to do is another pitfall to watch out for. Resist the temptation to get overly involved and take back responsibility for the task. Provide guidance and resources and have regular check-ins, but also give your team member autonomy to see the job through. 

When done effectively, delegating gives leaders more time to focus on strategic efforts, if they are willing to make the upfront investment in assigning work. Just like any skill, delegating can be learned and have great results if we put the time and effort towards it. 

Ron Monteiro is a CPA, CMA, in Ontario and an expert facilitator with Clear Concept Inc. He is an energetic speaker dedicated to life-long learning and helping people achieve their highest potential. Ron works with organizations and individuals to improve their productivity, collaboration, and leadership skills and empowers them to thrive within a high-performing team.