#042: The Fine Art of Delegation [Podcast]

In this episode, I talk about the fine art of delegation. I also share the five levels of delegation. If you want to succeed as a leader, it is imperative that you learn to delegate and delegate well.


Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Qwasyx

My first year as marketing director, I vacillated between micro-managing everything and completely abdicating my role. It would be years before I would learn the art of delegation. However, the techniques I cover in this episode can help you go further, faster.

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One of the first recorded examples of delegation occurs in the book of Exodus, chapter 18. In leading the children of Israel, Moses was wearing himself out. His father-in-law, Jethro, gave him some very specific imperatives. These are as relevant today as they were then.

  • Imperative #1: Admit that working non-stop is unsustainable.
  • Imperative #2: Understand your unique calling
  • Imperative #3: Select qualified leaders to assist you
  • Imperative #4: Give these leaders responsibility and authority
    • Level 1: Do exactly what I have asked you to do.
    • Level 2: Research the topic and report back
    • Level 3: Research the topic, outline the options and make a recommendation.
    • Level 4: Make a decision and then tell me what you did.
    • Level 5: Make whatever decision you think is best.
  • Imperative #5: Only do those things which others cannot do.

Listener Questions

  1. Adam Rico asked, “How do you avoid the feeling that you are adding another burden to an already overwhelmed team member when you delegate a task to them?”
  2. Gary Morland asked, “What is the biggest mistake you can make when delegating?”
  3. James Randorff asked, “What process do you have for checking your own heart to make sure you aren’t shirking your responsibilities when delegating?”
  4. Jeff Sanders asked, “Currently, I don’t have anyone to delegate to. How do you know when it’s time to hire a virtual assistant?”
  5. Laurie Coombs asked, “What does it look like practically for a leader to delegate?”
  6. Nate Buckwater asked, “How do you overcome the challenges of delegating to people who are older than you are?”
  7. Paolo Sini asked, “I have a hard time delegating. Can you give me any advice on changing this behavior?”
  8. Phil Mershon asked, “I often have a difficult time trusting those to whom I delegate. What strategies can you suggest for overcoming these trust issues?”
  9. Rabbi Evan Moffic asked, “What should I keep and what should I pass on?”

Special Announcements

  1. The Platform Conference was a huge success. We held the two-day event at the Sound Kitchen here in Franklin, Tennessee. The speakers were awesome!

    The thing that made this conference different from most was the total engagement of our speakers. All but one stayed the entire time. They sat with the other attendees, took copious notes, and networked with everyone present.

    I am pleased to announce that the next Platform Conference will be held November 3–5, 2013 in Dallas at the Omni Hotel at Park West. You can find out more and register on our website.

  2. Platform University is going great. After the Platform Conference last week, I spent two very long days filming content with our video crew. We shot four Master Classes, five Backstage Pass segments, and a slew of Platform Tips. We will be rolling all of this out to our members in the coming months.

    So far, We have more than 1,300 members. if you haven’t done so yet, please check it out at PlatformUniversity.com. It’s only $25 a month—less than a dollar a day. I don’t know of a faster, cheaper way to launch your platform or take it to the next level.

  3. My next podcast will be part 2 of “The Fine Art of Delegation.” If you have a question on this subject, please leave me a voicemail message. This is a terrific way to cross-promote your blog or website, because I will link to it, just like I did with the callers in this episode.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: What questions do you still have about delegating? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • rabbimoffic

    Michael, Thanks for taking my question and beautiful interpretation and use of the Jethro/Moses story. One other interesting example of Moses’ delegation skills: We learn earlier in Exodus that he has a speech impediment, probably a lisp. Therefore, he uses his older brother Aaron as his spokesman, his mouthpiece. 

    Moses maintains his unique role as intercessor before God, while Aaron conveys Moses’ words to Pharaoh. Because of his ability to delegate effectively, Moses is later described as the “most humble man in the world.” In addition to trust, which is so essential, humility also makes delegation possible and effective. Thank you so much for this podcast, Evan

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Evan. I almost e-mailed you before I recorded this, thinking you might have some rabbinic insights for me, especially from the Talmud. I really appreciate your emphasis here on humility. Thanks.

      • rabbimoffic

        There actually is a great Talmudic story on delegation, specifically the danger of micromanaging. A man sends his servent into town to get a certain kind of flour. The servent returns and tells him the flour is sold out. The man sends him to get a different kind. By the time the servant returns to the market, that type of flour is sold out. The servant returns and the man instructs him to get a different kind, which is also sold out. This cycle continues until the man insists on going into town himself, gets lost, and gets injured. He never gave his servant the authority to decide which flour to buy. 

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Great story. Love it!

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

           Powerful. Thanks for the additional insights, Evan!

  • Pastor George

    Michael, great pod cast EXTREMELY helpful and looking forward to the second part.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Pastor George. I appreciate that!

  • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough “The Iron Jen”

    AWESOME postcast/blog Michael. Loved your tips on delegation. I have invested in a VA service for almost a year and love it. As you mention, trust is built over time and as that trust has been built, more things have been delegated. I especially liked your idea of writing all the things we do down and then putting a check mark by the things that can ONLY be done by us which helps us see what things could be delegated. I might also add in some advice for those looking to delegate…don’t be afraid to ASK the person you are delegating to what things they want to take on or what skills they want to grow. It has been surprising to find out what talents and gifts others have. This is true whether it is a business role or even the role as a parent or friend. If we don’t delegate and allow others to grow, we don’t give them the chance to reach to their full potential and therefore we will never know our true potential.Many thanks!Live Beyond Awesome.JenTwitter: @TheIronJen

  • sasha

    Thanks Michael,
    My Wednesday morning workout is now more entertaining than other days since I found your podcast; it’s even an additional motivator to get me out of bed before 5.  Much of this has to do with your demeanor, your effectiveness in engaging your listener, and your use of the scripture to back up a majority of what you say.

    • Jonathan Harrison

      Sasha – My Wednesday morning jog is my favorite for the exact same reason! I was just thinking about the amazing consistency and dependability – really helps me get going.
      …and I’m really looking forward to next week’s podcast!

    • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

      I second that Sasha!

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

    Great podcast Michael!

    I am the stage where delegating may be necessary, as I think it could help me be more efficient.  I have a question somewhat related to Laurie’s question.You mentioned being clear on the assignment, expectations, the outcome, and establishing an inspection process.What tools do you you use for the inspection process?  Do you share docs/info via Evernote, Google Docs, or some other apps?  What does this process look like for you?Thanks for your podcast and sharing all the great things that make you so successful!

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

    My second comment: I love the biblical example you used to teach this topic.  I love when scripture is exposed and shown how it practically applies to our lives.  I never even thought of Jethro as the first “leadership consultant.”

    High five, two thumbs up, and a fist bump to you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, so much. I appreciate that encouragement!

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    @mhyatt:disqus , sir, you’ve knocked out of the park again.  I only listened to the first minute and I got worked up (in a good way) about what you were saying.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Dale. I appreciate that.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    At time 14:22 of this podcast, there’s a word I don’t understand. I’ve replayed the passage multiple times, but I can’t figure it out: 

    I trust you completely, I don’t need to know what you decided until I read it in my travel itinerary [intripid???]

    Sounds like “intripid.” What might that be?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      TripIt. It’s an online travel organizer. Sorry I didn’t pronounce it more clearly.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        Thanks, and no need to apologize. I’d simply never heard of TripIt. No matter how much additional clarity of enunciation you might have provided, “in TripIt” still would have sounded like “intripid” to the uninitiated. I just thought that perhaps “itinerary intripid” was some Law French term like “attorney general” (the “general” being not a noun denoting a military rank but an adjective following rather than preceding the noun it modifies, as is common in French).

  • Jane Babich

    Excellent skill building tips for one of the toughest tasks for a leader, delegation.

  • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    Michael, I was listening to your podcast while getting ready for work this morning. I wanted to comment on working as a manager and being address as “sir” or “Mr”. I struggled with this when I first started working as a manager, until I realized something. It had nothing to do with me. It was about how the other person had been raised or trained.

    When I was in the Navy and had any exposure to civilians, I always addressed them formally because that’s how I was trained. I also wanted to set the example for younger or junior sailors.

    My second job out of the Navy had me working for a manager who was a retired commander. He insisted on being addressed as “Mike”. It took me a LONG time to get used to the retraining/reprogramming of being permitted to address someone who once would have been a superior officer to me on a first name basis.

    My advice to other people uncomfortable with being addressed formally is to remember: it probably has nothing to do with you. The best thing to do is accept it until you’ve established a relationship and the person becomes comfortable addressing you informally. Don’t let it go to your head because again, it’s probably not about you. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Eric. I pretty much came to the same conclusion.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I’ve never been in a leadership position that required a lot of delegation, but I’m learning how to create a team as I produce more books and music.  Two years ago it was just me: Now I have an editor, a photographer, a copier, a music producer, a reader for audio books, and more tech support.  I also have a few artists and photographers that are willing to share their work on my blog.  It’s been a great learning process.  But what I’ve found is that the more I reach out and share my journey with others, the more they are willing to become part of the team.

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    I’m seeing glimpses of how delegation can be a tool for way more than just getting stuff done. For instance: building trust, creating ownership, and training possibilities. Michael, you’ve been doing this for a while, could you relate how you have leveraged delegation to build your organization in these kinds of ways?

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s a great observation Aaron. Delegation is also a connection building, relationship forming tool.

      • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

         Thanks. I’m realizing that I have to break the old mold of just looking at it as a way to reduce my workload. It’s so much bigger than that.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I would say delegation is the primary way you grow people. The more responsibility you give them, the more they must grow to accept it and execute. It ends up being good for everyone.

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  • Joe Wathika

    Hey Michael.What would you recommend as the best password safe?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I use 1Password to generate and store passwords.

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Talk about timing Michael!

    Literally two nights ago my wife and I decided I needed to hire an assistant again. It’s been two years since I started my business and had an assistant. The 14 hour days 6 days a week are killing all of us, so it is definitely time.

    Thank you for reminding me here that my lifestyle is unsustainable and for your tips.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Matt, congrats on making the decision to delegate your business so you can take back your life and family!   

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      The lack of sustainability resonated with me as well. That is what finally pushed me to hire some help. I was tanking, fast. Now I wonder why we didn’t do sooner!

  • http://twitter.com/asmithblog Adam Smith

    Loved how you pulled all of this on delegation out of Exodus. Really helpful, Michael.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Wasn’t it fascinating? So insightful. And right there, in front of our eyes.

  • http://wikitalks.com/ Maria G.

    Thank you for the podcast! I feel that the art of delegation is really something that I couldn’t master and have always doubted I could ever master. I always get discouraged with people on my team who seem to be unwilling to submit every time I give out tasks and assignments. I don’t want to get mad at my team members or make them feel like I am overburdening them and try as much as possible to be a nice leader. My question is how should I handle team members who are just plain stubborn?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      One of the things I didn’t mention in the podcast (though I should have) is how important it is to explain WHY something is important and why I am asking them to do it. Often times people’s resistance to doing a task goes away when they understand the purpose behind it. Thanks.

      • JustinRFoster

        Michael, thank you for adding this all important element. I see so many leaders who, (in my context) send individuals for training, but don’t explain WHY it is important or WHY the individual themselves are being sent. But, when this happens, it really sets the conditions for success for all parties. Good reminder to “start with why.”

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  • http://www.SmallGroupChurches.com/ Andrew Mason

    The 5 levels of authority are brilliant…

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  • http://fourhourleader.wordpress.com/ Giuseppe

    Another excellent and inspiring post. Thank you!

    Giuseppe @4hourleader:twitter 

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  • http://twitter.com/RobertLeeFoster Robert Lee Foster

    As a college professor, I struggle to work with workstudies.  This podcast has been a great help.

  • http://twitter.com/RobertLeeFoster Robert Lee Foster

    As a college professor, I struggle to supervise workstudies.  This podcast has been a great help. I am looking forward to part 2.

    Thank you.
    I blog at solomongreathouse.wordpress.com.

    • Jim Martin

      So glad the podcast was helpful to you, Robert!

    • http://www.facebook.com/howard.drive.5 Howard Drive

      Robert kindly provide some blog of that professor, because i want to read it!

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  • http://www.johngallagherblog.com John Gallagher

    The 5 levels of delegation- Profound, yet simple.  Nice way to break it down.  Thanks, Michael

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  • JustinRFoster

    I know I’m a little behind the party here, but I just had to say that as I am moving up into a new position of leadership, this Podcast will (when put into action) have a huge impact on how I delegate to mentor and grow others. Thanks so much!

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