by Phil Manington

What to delegate

It can be difficult to decide what to delegate and what to do yourself. Clearly, the situation will have an impact, as will who you have available (see Who to delegate to). However, some general guidelines are given below.


  • Routine activities should be permanently delegated through job descriptions.
  • Consider all tasks that you used to do before you were promoted. Resist the temptation to take tasks with you (especially if you enjoy them!). It will be much better for people in your team to take them over. Moreover, you will find these easiest to explain and will be able to coach someone to do them well.
  • Also consider all the tasks that you do now (maybe some of which you inherited from your predecessor) that someone in your team is also capable of doing as well as you. Using a member of your team will cost the organisation less and free up more of your time.
  • Any activity that your subordinates can do better than you must be delegated. You may feel uncomfortable and want to know as much as they do. This is not only impossible but is highly undesirable. Your job is to know enough so that you understand how their activities fit into the bigger picture.
  • Delegate those decisions to your team where you can live with whatever conclusion they reach.
  • Delegate as much as possible to develop your staff. Your ideal would be for them to be as good as you.
  • Delegate as many decisions as possible that are of particular interest to your team (see Empowerment).

Do not delegate

  • Do not delegate tasks to people unless you are confident they will succeed.
  • Do not delegate anything if you might subsequently reverse a decision.
  • Do not delegate management functions, such as how your department is represented and developed within the organisation, future planning and so on.
  • In general, avoid delegating people management activities (personal development plans, performance appraisals, team-building and so on). Clearly, you don’t have to design and run a three-day team-building course, but it is essential that you take an active part, showing your commitment and personally leading from the front.
Key tip

A common mistake for new managers is to believe that they must be an expert in everything that their team does. Aim for your people to be the experts on the detail while you become the expert on the bigger picture.