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a blog by Chris Barrow

Do less, lead more - why delegation is the key to avoiding overwhelm

So I asked Mark Topley over breakfast to offer some tips for those in overwhelm (see yesterday's post) - and here is his first response:

Overwhelm. The top issue facing so many Principals, Managers and leaders as we approach the end of Q1 in 2023.

And for a high proportion of these leaders, the root cause is a lack of delegation. When people try to take on too much themselves and don't delegate to others, they can quickly become overloaded and stressed. This can lead to burnout, reduced productivity, and even health problems.

Effective delegation is a vital skill for any leader or manager. By delegating, Great Bosses are able to free up their own time and focus on higher-level responsibilities, while also empowering their team to develop new skills and take ownership of their work. Ultimately, delegation leads to increased productivity, improved team morale, and better outcomes for the organisation as a whole. In this blog, I’ll explore the benefits of delegation, common challenges that arise, and strategies for effective delegation in the practice.

“You can have control or growth, but not both” - Craig Groeschel

Failing to delegate can have serious negative consequences for a business. When you try to handle everything yourself, you risk becoming overwhelmed and burning out. You’re also constraining your team. Team members who aren’t given the opportunity to develop their skills and take on new challenges, frequently become stagnated. Without effective delegation, you are wasting the resources you’re already paying for, and ultimately, you’re holding your business back by limiting its potential for growth and innovation. Bosses who are willing to delegate, on the other hand, can unlock the full potential of their team and help drive their practice forward.

But it’s not always easy to get right. When discussing delegation with clients, I often hear two common complaints. The first is that they have tried delegation in the past but it failed. In some cases, team members may have struggled to complete delegated tasks, leading to frustration and a loss of trust in the delegation process. Alternatively, leaders may have delegated tasks without providing adequate support or guidance, which can result in confusion and mistakes. These negative experiences can make leaders hesitant to delegate in the future, even though delegation remains an essential skill.

The second common complaint I hear is that clients have tried delegation, but it took too long to get team members up to speed. Delegation is a time-consuming process, particularly when team members are new to a particular task or responsibility. But you simply must invest time in training and coaching team members, which can be challenging when there are other pressing demands on your time. Additionally, some leaders may be reluctant to delegate tasks that they are particularly skilled at, as they believe that it will take too long to train others to the same level of proficiency.

What great delegation looks like

For me, great delegation boils down to clarity.

● Clarity over what needs to be done and what a successful outcome looks like

● Clarity over the resources - time, money etc that are available

● Clarity over the level of authority the person has to complete the task

● Clarity over support available, when reviews will happen, and completing the task with a proper review.

Michael Hyatt created a very useful five-level framework for delegation:

Level 1: Do exactly what I have asked you to do. Don’t deviate from my instructions. I have already researched the options and determined what I want you to do.

Level 2: Research the topic and report back. We will discuss it, and then I will make the decision and tell you what I want you to do.

Level 3: Research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation.Give me the pros and cons of each option, but tell me what you think we should do. If I agree with your decision, I will authorise you to move forward.

Level 4: Make a decision and then tell me what you did. I trust you to do the research, make the best decision you can, and then keep me in the loop. I don’t want to be surprised by someone else.

Level 5: Make whatever decision you think is best. No need to report back. I trust you completely. I know you will follow through. You have my full support.

“Delegate tasks and you’ll have followers, delegate authority and you’ll create leaders”

Top tips for delegating

● Tell people which delegation level you're using: Different tasks and team members require different levels of delegation. Let your team members know which level you are using for a particular task, so that they know how much authority and responsibility they have.

● Set expectations: Clearly communicate your expectations for the task, including the deadline, quality standards, and any other requirements.

● Write it down- write down the delegation level, expectations, and any other details related to the task. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and can refer back to the written instructions if needed.

● Clarity on expectations - be clear about how much time team members should spend on the task, and what level of authority they have for decision making. This will help avoid confusion and ensure that team members are able to complete the task effectively.

● Support them where required - provide support and guidance to team members where required, but avoid micromanaging. Think of yourself as holding the rope, providing guidance and support, but allowing your team members to take ownership of the task.

● Be Patient - it takes time for people to learn, but it’s worth the investment. Remember that delegation is a skill that takes time to develop. Be patient with your team members as they learn and grow, and be willing to invest the time and effort necessary to help them succeed. In the long run, effective delegation can pay off in increased productivity, job satisfaction, and improved outcomes for your organisation.

Use my handy Delegation Template

I've created a handy delegation template to help you get started with more effective delegation in your organisation. By using this template, you can clearly communicate tasks, deadlines, and expectations to your team members, while also providing ongoing support and check-ins to ensure that tasks are completed successfully. So, if you want to unlock the full potential of your team and drive your organisation forward, download the delegation template today and start delegating with confidence. With this tool in hand, you'll be well on your way to achieving your goals, maximising your team's potential, and helping to avoid overwhelm.


Mark Topley is the Director of the Great Boss Academy - a continuous leadership development community for Principals, Managers and others aspiring to be Great Bosses. For more details visit

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