How to Delegate to Your Team

There’s a wrong way to delegate, and a right way to delegate. In this lesson, Adamchik talked about delegation’s dark side, the why, who, and what of delegation in the Dirt World, and how you can empower your team to get the outcome you want — with no babysitting required.

The dark side of delegation.

We all know delegation is a great tool for leaders, but there’s also a dark side: “Maybe you don’t want to delegate because it will take too long to explain,” Adamchik said. “Or because they’ll just screw it up. Or they won’t do it your way. These are all legitimate reasons. Yes, it will take time to explain, and yes, they will screw it up the first time. And no, they might not do it your way.”

But, as he pointed out, this also prevents you from scaling and keeps you in the weeds, rather than growing your business.

Here’s how to escape the dark side:

Delegate the outcome, not the method. “When we’re specifying a method, it’s not delegation at all,” Adamchik said. “We say 'do this, do that, do not deviate.'” But when you’re delegating the outcome, what you’re saying is, 'hey, I need you to get there by the end of the day.' But what happens in our mind is we think people are going to do it our way. And when they don’t, we do it ourselves.”

When the fear kicks in. What if the other person learns how to do the task better than you? “You’re thinking, 'I’ll be expendable,'” Adamchik said. “That’s the fear kicking in. But if you’re good at what you do, you’ll still be good at what you do. So if they’re doing it well too, then we can create new crews, right? We can create greater capacity.”

The whys, whos, and whats of delegation.

Now that you know how to escape the dark side, you’re probably feeling ready to jump into delegating. Knowing why we delegate, who we should delegate to, and what we should be delegating can make all the difference between delegating well and delegating poorly.

Why we delegate. There are lots of reasons why we delegate. For example, when you delegate, you can:

  • help other people grow
  • free up your time to do other things
  • cross-train or your people
  • get things done
  • make people feel a part of something
  • know someone capable can takeover if you have to leave the job site

What to delegate — and what not to delegate. Delegate the tasks you did before you assumed your new role. “When you get promoted, there’s a tendency to keep doing the tasks you did before,” Adamchik pointed out. “But you’re not getting paid to do that job anymore, right? So don’t hold on to those tasks, even if it’s more comfortable.”

There are also things you shouldn’t delegate. One example is terminations. “I hate when I hear a superintendent say, ‘Yeah, we had to call HR to fire that person,’ Adamchik said. “What you mean is, you’re calling HR to be a witness, but you own that decision.”

Who to delegate to. Assess your team members’ strengths and weaknesses, Adamchik advised. Don’t just delegate to people with the strengths, either. Someone who’s weak in a particular area can benefit, since they will end up learning how to do the task better.

What if the person’s not interested? “That’s a conversation you need to have,” Adamchik pointed out. “You say to them, you need to be interested in this, because it’s something you’re going to have to learn, or get better at, to get to the next level.”

The right way to delegate.

So how do you go about delegating the right way? You use the acronym I.D.E.A.L.S.:

Introduce the task. To introduce the task, use the what-why statement. Tell them what to do, and then tell them why: I want you to do _____ because you will _____. For example, I want you to do the safety checklist walkaround, because It’s something you’ll do when you're a foreman. “The what-why statement is key to your success,” Adamchik said. “When you use it, they’ll go, oh, I get it. There’s something in it for me.”

Demonstrate the task clearly. Just because someone has seen you do the task three times doesn’t mean they'll be able to do it too, Adamchik pointed out. “You need to show them how it gets done before you turn it over to them. And you have to ask, do I understand what I’m asking for?”

Ensure understanding. The key to ensuring understanding is in your delivery: your tone of voice and inflection. “Don’t say, 'okay, now tell me what you’re going to do' while you're thinking, 'dumbass,'” Adamchik noted. “You want to keep the burden on yourself. So you say, tell me what you’re going to do, because I want to make sure I explained it correctly.”

Allocate authority, information, and resources. This is the step that’s easy to screw up, because we often forget that people may need something — authority, information, or resources — to perform the task we’re delegating. Remember to go through the thought process of asking yourself, do they have what they need?

Let it go. Once you’ve given them the task, you need to let it go. “Use the concept of constrained access,” Adamchik explained. “Let's say you call me while you're doing the task. I let it go to voicemail. Because often what happens is, when I call you back later to say, hey, what do you need? you’ll say to me, it’s okay, I figured it out.”

Support them along the way. But you’re still giving them support. “You have to monitor things at appropriate intervals along the way,” Adamchik said. “You want to support them, and at the same time you’re saying, I gave this to you because I think you can handle it. Have "office hours", instead of always being there to solve their problems.”

Don’t take the monkey.

In the book The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard, the monkey is the next task. So when you say to someone, you want them to do X, they’re taking the monkey.

But as a supervisor, taking the money isn’t something you want to do when you're delegating. If you take the monkey, you’re like the manager depicted in the book who, on a Saturday morning, drives his car filled with monkeys right by his direct reports golfing. How many monkeys are on the tee? The answer, of course, is none. Because the manager has taken them all.

There are levels of delegation, and when you delegate, you want to get to the upper levels, where you’re telling your people, You’ve got it. I trust you. “Read the book, and then look at each task you’re delegating,” Adamchik said. “What level is it, on the ladder of delegated authority? Think through it this way, and you’ll have a totally different view of delegation.”


Delegation done well is a good thing. It results in increased production, morale, and productivity. When you do it poorly, though? “Done poorly, it pisses people off, and makes things go bad,” Adamchik said.

So follow the I.D.E.A.L.S. and do delegation well:

  • Introduce the task
  • Demonstrate the task clearly
  • Ensure the understanding
  • Allocate authority, information, and resources
  • Let it go
  • Support them along the way

And remember, don’t take the monkey.


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