How to be great at delegating

Delegation is an art form that is very valuable, yet sadly underutilized

Delegation is an art form that is very valuable, yet sadly underutilized.

Many high achievers are guilty of thinking “I might as well just do it myself” or “They won’t do it right.” Those who have tried delegating and lament that it doesn’t work for them probably weren’t doing it properly.

Start small. Allow those taking on the tasks the freedom to actually complete them, and try not to compare them to yourself. To better delegate, follow my exclusive, patented, G.R.E.A.T. system, which stands for: Goals, Review, Empower, Allow, and Tweak.


A common mistake is to simply ask someone to complete a task and expect the end result to magically match the image in your mind.

This is unlikely to happen, and will lead to frustration for all. For any level of delegation to be successful, you first need to have a clear goal in mind. What do you want to accomplish? What do you need to delegate? What does successfully completing your task look like?

If you want a task done well, you need to explicitly define your desired outcome and share it clearly. Triple-blinded, randomized, scientific studies show that shockingly, most technicians, receptionists, associates, and managers are not mind readers.

So share your goals and vision, tell your teammates exactly what you want, and set them up for success.


The best way to make sure you were understood is to ask for feedback. What did your chosen person understand? What is the goal of the task? How will they know when they have reached their outcome? How do you want it done? What is the deadline? When will you follow up?

Explain to your team member why you chose them. It may be because of their skill set, their past performance, or their attention to detail. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Review specific procedures and preferences with your “delegatee.” Say you want a filing cabinet to be reorganized. If you want paperwork filed “your” way, then you need to explain whether labels should be typed, handwritten in red, or created with little stickers you have saved in some secret location.

Also, provide a checklist if things need to be done in a specific order, or help your delegatee create it. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to be happy with the end result.


You’ve told them what to do and how to do it—now you need to equip them with the proper tools and resources.

Be sure to provide the necessary paperwork, supplies, keywords, credit card (yikes!), research, passwords, or any other required resources. If money needs to be spent, what is your budget? If other staff members need to be involved, what leeway does your team member have to enroll them?


Now that you have delegated your task to a specific person, it’s time to step back and watch the magic happen. A common mistake is to micromanage. It defeats the whole purpose! If you are hovering around, watching their every move, and breathing down their neck, things are not going to go well.

Allow them to take care of your project, start to finish. Trust those you are delegating to. Give them trust, responsibility, and authority. Yet, also give them permission to ask for help.

If there are areas you are willing to be flexible with, give them the freedom to find the best or most efficient way to finish the job.


On the due date, it’s time to follow-up. Set up a time to review the project with your protégé.

Go over the following questions with them:

  • Was the goal accomplished?
  • Did they encounter difficulties?
  • Was the task completed per your request?
  • Were your expectations met?
  • Does the end result need any tweaking or adjusting?
  • What is the next step?

Take a few moments to answer the following questions privately:

  • How was the project handled?
  • Would I ask the same person to complete another project for me in the future?
  • Should I have spent more time explaining the task to ensure a smoother process?
  • What have I learned from this delegation exercise?
  • Is there anything I should do differently next time?
  • How can I thank or reward my new best friend?

Follow this G.R.E.A.T. system to delegate among others:

  • Repetitive tasks
  • Tasks you don’t want to do
  • Projects that should be done, but you won’t have time to do
  • Things you’re simply not good at
  • Tasks that are not cost-effective for you to be doing

Use the chart at the bottom for inspiration (Note: this is by no means a brilliant marketing campaign to emulate.) A blank table is provided for you to create your own delegated project and experience the magic for yourself.

Here is a critical point to remember when you delegate: it is better to have something done 80 to 90 percent as well as you would have done it, than to have multiple tasks on a to-do list you realistically will never get to.

When you delegate tasks appropriately, it frees you up to do the things only you can accomplish.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. Visit his websites at and AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, Pa., contributed to this article.

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