Delegating Is Hard To Do: Tips 1 to 5

You can’t counsel the C-Suite while you’re busy running events, you can’t generate new business while you’re up to your eyeballs running the business you currently have, and you can’t focus on strategy while you’re mired in tactics–either of your accounts or your agency.

Since you can’t create more hours in the day, your only possible choice is effective delegation.

I’m still surprised by the numbers of agency owners and others who report having trouble doing this, or worse, don’t realize that this is a skill they sorely need but lack.

In full transparency, during my agency days, delegating was an issue for me.  You may suspect it’s one for you as well.  A great way to confirm this is to find someone who reports to you, stare them right in the face, and ask: “Do you think I could delegate more effectively?”

Their eyes will tell you all you need to know.  If you don’t like what you see, here are five tips that I believe you’ll find helpful, and I sure wish someone had shared with me, back in the day:

1. Don’t Wait For Responsibility to Be Taken. Many agency CEOs with whom I speak mention their frustration that staff members don’t ask for more responsibility. I tell them if they’re waiting for this, it’s going to be a long, lonely wait. Most staffers don’t do this, because they’re looking for a signal from you–the leader–that you think they’re up to it. So don’t wait for responsibility to be taken. Instead, distribute it.

2. Ban “I’ll Just Do It Myself” When we start to delegate, we often find the work isn’t up to our standards. If we take a sub-part assignment back and re-work it, we’ve missed an important learning opportunity, for both the staffer and the leader. So fight the urge to do the work yourself, and instead invest that time in coaching the pro into how they can turn their first draft into a piece of work that does the job. You may be surprised at how well the second draft comes out. More important, you’ve increased both your comfort levels in that staffer taking on more of work that you thought only you could do.

3. Focus on the “What,” Not the “How.” Real development can only occur when the PR staffer has true ownership of an assignment. So fight the urge to show them how to complete the assignment. Instead, articulate your vision of what the end result must be, and let them determine how to get there. You’ll not only be encouraging  enhanced assignment ownership, but laying the foundation for the employee to contribute on a higher level going forward.

4. Go For Completion, Not Perfection. Of course, I mean effective, quality completion. Perfection is simply an excuse to not allow someone else to own a project or an account. Accept that the person to whom you’ve delegated the assignment won’t do the job “as good as I would.” But remember that in the big picture, their “Very Good” job is actually better than your “Excellent” job, because it allows you to do you real job of creating the long-term agency strategy and growing the business.

5.  Observe How They Do It Better Than You. One of the benefits of delegating–a project, an account, a group–is that the person to whom you’ve delegated to will bring a new set of eyes, skills and experience.  While they might not do it as you would do it, they’ll most likely improve it in some way. Be on the lookout for this. It will make you feel comfortable delegating even more to that staffer, and may open your eyes to other assignments in which they’ll be particularly successful and bring even greater value to the agency and its clients.

In the future I’ll be offering additional tips on how to let go more successfully.

Ken Jacobs

I’m the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, which helps public relations and communications agencies and organizations grow and manage business, and enhance staff performance, leadership and communications skills.We do so via consulting, training, and coaching. To learn more, please click on the “Jacobs Communications Consulting” tab on the top.


Hey Ken! I was recently promoted and with this step up, I'm now expected to delegate to younger colleagues. NOT EASY, but taking it a day at a time. Thanks for all the helpful tips - you've got loyal readers down in Aus!


@ginidietrich So often we're sure that ours is the only or the best way. The reality is that there's always another way to "make the bed," and quite often our team members can do it better than we can. But we can't find out until we let go.


When I got married my mom said to me, "He'll never make the bed as well as you do. The point is that he makes it." I've always kept that in mind when delegating work. Even better is when they actually do the work better than you could have on your best day. It happens. Just not always at first.


Hey @jesabe13 Jes, delighted to know you follow the blog and that you find it valuable. Appreciate your taking the time to let me know. And most of all Mazel Tov on the promotion! Excited for you.