To be a successful and effective project manager you have to know when to delegate, and to whom.

handing off projects

Contrary to popular practice, this should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Delegating is something that everyone managing projects should consider from the project’s inception.  While collaborative project management software facilitates this, success depends on optimizing and using your team members’ expertise and balancing resources.

Still, there are good and bad reasons for delegating project work. Here are 11 questions to consider—and their answers—in order to be an effective delegator.

1. When should I delegate a task?

Three of the best reasons to delegate are:

  • To stick to the project timeline.
  • To have the most qualified person advise on or make a decision.
  • To build skills in team members that will also develop their careers.

2. When should I never delegate a task?

Here are two situations when you should never delegate:

  • To bail yourself out. You can delegate tasks, but you cannot delegate the responsibility for the task being completed appropriately.  Accountability remains with you whether you delegate or not.
  • Selecting your project team. If you’re a team leader, this is critical to your success. The selection process begins the process of working together.
delegate to different team members

3. What kinds of work should I delegate?

Jobs that are time-consuming but not central to project success. For example, you can delegate the task of creating a slideshow on your project strategy document for a client.  In the end, you’ll be judged on the project’s success, not on the slideshow graphics.

4. What should I never delegate?

Project strategy. Or motivating your team to do their best work. You could ask team members to contribute strategy recommendations based on their expertise, but the delivery of an overall strategy belongs to the project lead and manager.

5. How should I delegate a task?

Carefully, and with clear directions and deadlines to get everyone on the same page. If you have a specific format for a deliverable in mind, create a template. Be sure the person to whom you delegate is clear that you expect to monitor progress and oversee drafts to guide the work.

6. How should you never delegate?  

Never delegate a task that you can’t clearly describe (which is probably a still-unformed scope of work). If you delegate out a fuzzy task, the time spent answering questions and redirecting efforts will eclipse any attempt to be efficient. Both parties will feel frustrated, and the task will suffer.

7. Who should I delegate to?

Project circumstances will dictate. If the task is important and the project is on shaky ground, delegate to someone with demonstrated skills in that area. However, if the project is rolling smoothly, you have the option of delegating to someone who could develop a new skill that might benefit the company and that person’s career over time.

8. Who should I never delegate to?

Anyone you don’t trust to do the work well—procrastinators, inexperienced team members (for sensitive tasks), inept colleagues or anyone with a motive to undermine the project. Never delegate to anyone you don’t trust to execute. Pick someone reliable, even if it means going outside to a contractor.

9. What’s the biggest barrier to delegating?   

What’s in your head. You need confidence to delegate; confidence that the task will be completed appropriately and on time. Naturally, you probably have more confidence in yourself than in someone else, which is where many of us get hung up.

Just know that delegating is not a sign of weakness, as a less experienced PM might feel. It’s a sign of skillful managing, which is what you’re paid to do.

10. What’s the best motivator to get me delegating?  

Finishing the project on time and on budget.

motivation and delegating

Delegate tasks to free yourself up to do the important work that will move your company’s business forward. Delegate to assist team members who need direction with their own assignments. Your job is to complete the project successfully, which means orchestrating the efforts of others. Delegating is an important tool.

11. Three tips to become a better delegator for project management professionals?

  • Remind yourself that delegating is a skill and a strength, not a weakness. As a lead PM, you have other, more pressing responsibilities—to manage the project—which means you can’t execute it entirely by yourself.  Plus, you’re more likely to hit your deadlines by delegating.
  • Pick the right person for key tasks, someone who has your confidence and trust to alleviate any distracting worrying.
  • Get another qualified person’s perspective on an issue. This is smart teamwork, which will likely result in better decision decision-making.

What kind of effective delegating practices have you acquired over the years? We want to hear from you!

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11 Questions to Ask to Be an Effective Delegator was last modified: May 13th, 2014 by Tim Clark