How to Delegate Productively

Delegation does not have to be painful — for you or other people.  Sometimes our dread of delegation leads to poor execution.


In this video, Dr. Melissa Gratias gives three powerful tips to make delegation productive.


Don’t want to watch the video?  A transcript follows.






Hi, my name is Dr. Melissa Gratias, and I’m a productivity specialist. I help overworked and overwhelmed people feel focused, balanced, and successful.


One of the ways that people can achieve success is through delegation. In this video, I’ll be talking about how to delegate productively.


In previous videos and blog posts, I’ve reviewed with you the Four Ds for Decision-Making popularized by McGhee:

  1. Do it myself,
  2. Defer it,
  3. Delegate it, or
  4. Dump it.


Of those four Ds, one that my clients struggle with (the mechanics of) the most is delegation. Delegation is the easiest one to mess up but also one of the most important Ds.


If you want to get effective results from delegation, here’s the way to do it.



Don’t wait to delegate.


First, don’t wait to delegate.


I’ll tell you a story. I have a great client of mine who, with really good intentions, used to absorb all tasks that hit his inbox. He would add them to his list of things to do with the best of intentions of doing it himself.


Then, with a full third of the items on his task list, the deadlines would start approaching. He was in a very deadline-driven profession. The deadlines would approach, and a task that he received two weeks ago was now two days from its due date. At that point he knew, “I’m not going to get this done.” So, he would have to call an all-hands-on-deck emergency with his team and get people together to get the task done on time.


So, don’t wait to delegate. Even if you think, “Oh I might be able to work this in”, just Teflon things off as soon as they hit your inbox.


Delegate early and often. Don’t wait to delegate. Get it off your desk so that the person to whom you are delegating will have the two weeks to do the thing instead of just the two days at the very end when it’s an emergency.


Don’t wait to delegate.



Delegate outcomes, not methods.


Secondly, delegate the outcomes, the goals, not the methods to get there, not the specific steps.


For those of us who’ve been in positions of leadership, the most wonderful thing in the world is to give someone who reports to you a task to do, tell them what the outcome should look like (i.e., the time, the quality), and let them figure out the best path to get there.


I have had employees of mine find so much better ways of doing things than I would have ever done myself. So, my way of accomplishing that thing (if I’d done it myself) was the inefficient way. They had better ideas.


So, make sure you clarify and delegate the outcomes. Then allow the smart people you’re paying to work with you on this team to find a better path between point A and point B.


Delegate the outcomes, not necessarily the methods.



Track delegated work only when you have to


The third tip to delegate productively is about tracking delegated work.


I get this question from at least 50% of the people who manage others that I coach. I coach lots of people, and those who are managing others say:


I delegate a lot. How am I supposed to keep track of all of this?


You don’t have to track every single task you delegate. Often, your regularly-scheduled one-on-one meetings, or your regularly-scheduled team meetings, will provide natural opportunities to follow up on delegated work without you having to design a separate tracking mechanism.


If you have regularly-scheduled meetings, as long as somebody is taking good notes (preferably not you the leader, preferably someone else), then you will have natural follow-up opportunities.


When a client asks me about tracking, I interpret that as the following question:


What do I (as a leader) need to put on my task list to remind me to follow up with a person to whom I have delegated work?


That’s what you must do:  put an action item on your task list to follow up with them.


If you delegate a lot of work, that’s going to be a huge number of follow-ups! So, be picky. Be discerning. Only track the follow-ups that you must track.


Here are two instances when you really must track delegated work:


  1. When the person to whom you have delegated the work is having performance problems. They may be on a performance improvement plan, and you’re already tracking their performance problems anyway. You’ll likely need to track follow-ups to them. Usually that’s a death knell to their employment. That’s one instance where you need to track work…from a good HR standpoint.
  2. If the performance of this delegated task is mission-critical. If there would be terrible outcomes if this task was not done, then you might track some follow-ups (and maybe have a meeting or two) to deal with this mission-critical issue.


You don’t have to track everything that you’ve delegated to others, especially if you have a very seasoned, high-performing team to whom you can delegate work.


Be discerning and track delegated work when you need to.


Delegation makes promotions happen.


Delegation is important to your productivity. It also creates a team of people who are equipped and able to do their work. It sets them, and you, up for success.


The better you delegate, the more desirable you are for levels higher than yours, and the more equipped they are to succeed you. Delegation does well all the way around.


This is Dr. Melissa Gratias. If you like these videos, you would love working with me. Please reach out. We can schedule a no-cost-to-you phone call where we’ll find out if working together makes sense.


Be productive. Delegate effectively, early, and often. Have a great day.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


1 Comment

  1. Janet Barclay

    Great tips! Occasionally I hold onto tasks for a while before admitting I really don’t have time to handle them myself, but often I forward them to my VA right away. Faster turnaround for my clients, more work for her, and less pressure on me!


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