Delegation Can Help You Navigate a Crisis

Leadership | Engagement

What does the present moment demand of us as leaders? We face a host of threats and stressful situations. Many of us are re-thinking and adjusting our economic model to ensure the survival of our organizations and the well-being of our employees. 

As a global community and national societies, we are better together than we are wandering about in separate silos. Remembering the words of Martin Luther King, “we must learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or die together as fools.”

The same holds true for our businesses, public sector agencies, and not-for profit service groups. Let’s practice authentic engagement now, instead of shrinking back in fear to a command and control way of leading.

Delegation is a powerful engagement and productivity strategy. The big idea: in high demand situations, leverage the strengths and interests of team members to take on project and team leader responsibilities. A few benefits of delegation:

  • You can focus on 1-3 top priorities and essential activities
  • Discover innovative ways to reach and serve customers
  • Enable employees to meet important needs of meaning, autonomy, and creative contribution.

To focus your attention on urgent platform challenges, you’ll have to trust the people you’ve hired to rise to the occasion. It’s worth the risk of a few failures to achieve a wealth of benefits.

Here are some Steps for Setting Delegation Up for Success.

1. Prioritize your current activities and select tasks to assign.
Take a hard look at your bandwidth and categorize your own activity, including priority projects and routine tasks. Identify the items you must do yourself (Keep), which ones you could entrust to others (Delegate), and which you can address at a later date (Defer). After you’ve assembled the categorized list, show it to a few of your trusted advisors inside and outside your organization. Get their feedback.


2. Choose an employee for each task on your Delegate list.
Take an inventory of employee talent and consider who might be a right fit for each task. Think about their skills, availability, and motivation to succeed. In some (perhaps many) instances, you could be considering an employee for an assignment that’s outside their experience. That’s called a “stretch delegation.” The enduring value of a stretch delegation outweighs potential short-term costs. Consider the amount of support they’ll need to complete the assignment. You don’t want to give yourself more work monitoring progress and coaching.


3. Plan and conduct a delegation conversation.
Successful delegation includes an essential conversation between you and the delegate that sets guidelines and constraints for the assignment. During the conversation, describe the specific and measurable goals, parameters of the assignment (what’s inside/what’s outside), the support they’ll receive, and a process for checking in along the way. The conversation should end with a summary of agreements and next steps. Confirm the delegate’s continued interest in and commitment to the task. Ask the delegate to write up the agreements and place in a shared electronic folder along with future work products. (Tip: have another team member attend the delegation conversation so they can become a sounding board and coach for the delegate during the assignment period.)


4. Conduct fast-cycle check-in conversations.
Having agreed on a check-in schedule in your delegation conversation, e.g., every two weeks, have the employee delegate the schedule and conduct the check-ins. The conversation should last no more than 25 minutes. An example of a desired outcome for the check-in: Understanding of progress to date, and barriers to continued progress, so that we can agree on appropriate actions. If you see the delegate making good progress, consider asking them to develop recommendations for improving the work process related to assignment, e.g., a streamlined method for monthly report preparation.


Delegation is a powerful tool in a collaborative leader’s tool kit. It frees you up to focus on important and urgent issues and tasks, while building the confidence, experience, and leadership qualities in others. Delegation can help you navigate the current crisis and develop a new cadre of leaders for the future.

If you’re seeking guidance on effective delegation or other challenges when leading from a distance, consider attending or recommending one of Interaction Associates’ live-online training programs.


About Barry Rosen

The CEO of Interaction Associates, Barry consults with company leaders on how to empower people and teams to work across functions and other boundaries to get important things done. He leads the assembly of IA's collaboration tools and learning content, including programs on facilitative leadership, inclusive teams, and task-focused group facilitation.