Permission Granted – Embrace Delegation.


When a senior account executive (SAE) earns a promotion to account manager or account supervisor, a lot can change. After all, SAEs pride themselves on the amazing ability to perform – to expertly draft that release, to score that feature ink, or to craft that compelling storyline. There’s a lot of ownership of that task and the recognition for that job well done.

As a new manager, I get it; it can be a struggle to understand where you fit now. The move from “doer” to “guider” can be a struggle for some. That is, until the new AM learns and embraces delegation.

It’s so tempting for the former SAE to just tackle the task at hand – he or she already knows how to get it done and can often do it quickly; but over time, that just doesn’t scale. Management is the art of getting work done through others. The more you can teach, the smarter and more successful your team will be. There will be more you can do, together. Delegating is vital.

Is delegating new to you? Here are five tips to start you on the right track.

  • Consider assigning larger projects with more autonomy, rather than small assignments which can feel like you’re only willing to ‘part’ with the grunt work, or that your valued teammate is only capable of the grunt work. That’s not very motivating! By setting him or her up for success and giving a team member ownership of something, he or she is also gifted the self-motivation of wanting to achieve. You can use check-ins along the way to ensure things are on the right track, and then you become a resource for the things they don’t know how to do, vs. getting involved in what they can already do.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to determine when to ‘just do it’ and when to delegate (and then guide and train as needed). Most of the time, opt for delegating (and train as you need to). The more you can teach the team, the more valuable they become and the more they will recognize you trust them. Save your time for the review of that work – making it even better.
  • Acknowledge that delegating requires up-front effort. Yes it will take time – but it is SO worth it. Think back to the tasks you tackled earlier in your career. You only learned them because someone trusted you and guided you. And now you’re both better for it! Return the favor and pay it forward.
  • Be cautious not to take projects back after delegating them – to either complete them quickly or so as not to overwork your employee. Effective delegation can be effective development. Taking a project back can have a negative effect – letting the employee know you don’t think they can do as good a job on it, or it could set them up for further dependency on you. Instead, focus on frequent check-ins and feedback. That way you can course correct along the way, eliminating the need to take it back. Or for team members who honestly just need to work at getting more efficient, it will force them to do so (or raise a flag for on their current skill abilities/dedication).
  • Often new managers will share a concern: “If I’m delegating much of the team’s work – how is it that I contribute now?” “Where do I provide value?” I think you provide value in the coaching and creating a team who can do what you do – that’s tremendous value to you and your organization. It also means you’re prioritizing new things for you which makes your team and organization stronger.  Instead of saying ‘what have I produced today’ you can think about ‘how much more the TEAM has produced today’ because of your ability to delegate and train

What additional advice would you have for someone new to delegation? Share your ideas below! If you want to learn more about delegation on your own, I’d recommend the easy-to-read Harvard Business Review Book Delegating Work to Develop Your People. It’s a great primer.

Catherine Allen (@catherineallen)
Executive Vice President


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