Managing Teams

The ROI of Delegation

Female manager leading meeting and delegating work

As a business leader, you’re busy.

No, not just busy. You’re SUPER busy.

Sure, the idea of delegating some tasks might sound nice in theory, but you worry that it’s just not practical. After all, you know it’s not as easy as handing a team member a list of things to do. These tasks take special skill and knowledge. You’ve been doing them long enough, but for someone new, it would take training and time to get up to speed—time you don’t have to spare.

This is a common, but counterproductive mindset that keeps a lot of managers bogged down in tasks they could (and arguably should) be delegating to others.

Yes, delegation is an investment of time and attention—especially on the front end. However, it’s one that yields tremendous return over time.

Let’s look at an example:

Every week, you spend approximately 5 hours pulling production data from various software systems, analyzing it, and putting it into a PowerPoint deck, which you present to the board each Friday afternoon.

Obviously, you can’t delegate your presentation. That requires your physical presence and, ideally, you want to be well-versed on the materials you’re presenting. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be the one to prepare them.

Also read: Help! I’m Doing the Work of 3 People!

Suppose you spend 10 hours training a team member to do this work on your behalf. Heck, let’s imagine this requires some serious training and it takes 25 hours. That’s a tall order and it can feel hard to justify when comparing it to the measly 5 hours it would take to do it yourself this week.

But you have to remember that those 25 hours of training are an investment. They aren’t simply a sunk cost. Once this person is trained and fully up to speed, he or she will be able to save you 5 hours of work each week in perpetuity (or as long as that person remains in that role).

After 5 weeks, you’ve saved as much time as it took to train the person (25 hours) so that’s your breakeven point. From that point on, you’re in pure savings. You’re reaping the rewards of your investment.

Also read: How to Structure Teams for Optimal Performance

In some cases, you may not be able to go from 5 hours of work on your part down to zero. You may still have to invest some time along the way in guiding the person, answering questions and advising. That’s to be expected, and it might shift your breakeven point a bit. Over time, your team member will need you less and less, and you will still eventually reach the place of pure savings.

If you’re struggling to delegate because of the time it takes, do the calculation. Look at the numbers on paper. See how long it will take to recoup your investment. When you look at it this way, you may feel more inclined to delegate now so you can reap the rewards in the future.








About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.