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Five habits of a successful delegator

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This blog post originally appeared in the Journal of Accountancy Career Insider newsletter (

Are you a leader in your firm such as a partner, manager, or supervisor? If so, you probably understand that one of the skills you must develop is effective delegation.  

Here are a few ways to help move tasks from your list to others on your team—and build confidence and trust along the way:  

Understand the value of delegation. Every professional should have an estimate of what he or she earns per hour. That’s easy if you are still entrenched in the billable hour. So look at your to-do list and your job description to identify how much time you put into your daily tasks, and then figure the investment you are making in each one. Are there things that you are spending ample time on that could really be done by someone at a different level? Are they things that could save the firm a considerable amount of money simply by moving them off your plate to someone else’s? Putting the dollars to the tasks can often motivate you to delegate.  

Identify the appropriate delegation targets. As a leader in your firm, you should make a commitment to teach and mentor the next generation. Delegation should be a natural step in the flow of guiding our top talent. Know your team and understand what the members do well, then delegate the items, tasks, and projects that they will claim success with. Also, make sure you are identifying tasks that the individual needs to learn. If you are thinking this is going to be a lot of work, you’re right. Delegation isn’t easy, but the results are worth the effort. 

Make sure everyone is on the same page. Managers often forget to make sure they and their employees agree about what a successful outcome would look like, and then they are surprised when the final work product is not what they were expecting. To avoid the “implementation gap,” talk explicitly at the start about what a successful outcome would look like. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to get on the same page from the very beginning of a project and ensure that accountability is clear for both you and your team member. 

Exhibit behaviors that earn trust. When you are ready to hand off a project to someone on your team, do it in public and express your commitment and faith in that team member’s abilities. This is an important step in building trust not just with that person but with your entire team. As the delegation process continues, share successes publicly, but never express disappointments in public. That is best dealt with in private and with the attitude that you are mentoring and coaching—not taking the task back. Telling people they have full decision-making authority for the task when they really don’t is a great way to kill trust.  

Don’t let ego get in the way of progress. Don’t allow yourself to be that person who says, “I can do it better” or “I can do it faster.” Of course you can. But that is not the point of delegation. Turn your confidence into a strong ability to communicate, motivate, and promote those who are a part of your future. Be willing to truly let go of the project or task that you are turning over. Relinquishing ownership and allowing team members to do the work on their own and in their own way—including making a few mistakes of their own—is vital to the process.

Interested in The P3 Leadership Academy? 

Delegation is one of the many leadership topics Sandra Wiley trains on during The P3 Leadership Academy™. The P3 Leadership Academy focuses on developing and elevating the middle of your firm to cultivate astute leaders in the areas of people / team management, planning and processes. More details at

We are interested in working with firms that understand developing managers is crucial for their long-term growth. Firms that not only want to recruit great talent, but develop it as well. If you are this type of firm, we want to hear from you.  Go to and complete our informational form. We'd love to speak with you.

Tags:  delegation  leadership  management 

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