In a perfect world, I’d be able to reflect on my first term as club president with glowing satisfaction. Unfortunately, my presidential debut with the Eagles Club of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was quite lackluster. Like many first-time leaders, I took on too much. Instead of planning and strategizing, I was mindlessly crossing items off a checklist—working harder, not smarter. Despite our best efforts, my executive committee and I accomplished little more than keeping the club afloat.
With careful examination, I’ve identified the common culprit to most of my hardship: ineffective or nonexistent delegation.
Why Is Delegation Important?
Delegation is crucial because it:
- Prevents you from becoming busy with the wrong tasks. This allows you to spend time on the right ones.
- Improves efficiency. The team carries routine activities to allow you to plan the next move, saving everyone time.
- Increases achievement. When everyone is invested in the outcome and carrying part of a shared workload, more can be accomplished.
- Provides leadership development opportunities for club members. Delegating responsibility to active members creates professional development opportunities and benefits all.
- Builds a knowledge-sharing practice. Effective delegation sometimes requires teaching of a skill or concept, or filling a knowledge gap.
- Strengthens coaching and mentoring relationships. Part of establishing a successful mentoring relationship is collaboratively solving problems. Delegating responsibility to a mentee with clearly defined goals and responsibilities fosters trust and cooperation.
- Establishes and strengthens trust between club and committee members. Even if you don’t have a formal mentor/mentee relationship, effective delegation assigns teamwork in a way that strengthens the team rather than dividing it.
- Increases your value as a leader. Effective delegation can help you gain loyalty, respect and the freedom to accomplish more challenging tasks. Your club’s achievements attest to your value as a leader.
Here are five tips on how to effectively delegate as a leader.
1 Let Go
Get over the belief that you need to do everything with your own hands. Micromanaging is not effective leadership. To avoid it, you must delegate responsibility and authority, not just the task.
“Once we delegated responsibility to align with professional and personal goals, productivity soared.”
As club president, I spent about two hours a week organizing catering for the meetings. I should have delegated that task to another person, freeing myself up for higher-value tasks, but I was anxious about the potential embarrassment of not having lunch available.
A good leader functions like a project manager:
- Defining and communicating objectives that are clear, useful and attainable.
- Procuring resources (e.g., workforce, required information, various agreements, materials or technology).
- Managing cost, time, scope and quality.
- Prioritizing tasks based on organizational goals and objectives.
- What tasks require my skills?
- Are there any high-effort/low-skill tasks I can delegate?
- Does anyone else have more appropriate skills to complete this task?
2 Build Connections
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate and share the workload. Stock up or trade favors with other clubs to establish a symbiotic relationship. Enlist the district and area leadership for support. Establish these connections early; delegation isn’t only from the top down.
- What skills are within this club’s capacity?
- How are the resources allocated? Who are the movers/shakers for each major event?
- Who are the other club presidents in my area/division?
- Who are the vice presidents education (VPEs)?
- What is the chain of command?
- Do I need permission to take action?
For several months, my club struggled to fill roles during meetings. It wasn’t until I reached out to another club president that I found a temporary solution to our problem. To ease the pressure on both of our clubs, we hosted several dual meetings. Having a larger pool of members to fill roles decreased the workload of the executive committee. The routine tasks were delegated, and this freed up some of our time and energy to plan and strategize a membership drive. Once the membership drive launched, we were able to slowly restore normal meeting routine.
3 Negotiate Win-Wins
Delegate responsibility in a way that benefits all parties. Allow volunteers to “get their feet wet” on tasks that benefit their end game. Make sure to give credit for any assistance or task completion.
- Does someone want to shine in front of their boss?
- Polish their humorous speaking skills?
- Run a campaign?
- Boost a resume?
- Do your club members/officers have specific goals in mind?
Most of my club members ran for office with a sense of duty. Wanting to contribute, they took vacant positions. However, little thought was put into finding the perfect person for the position. In the next half of the term, we reorganized roles. We found a member with a passion for education and with experience delivering leadership workshops for the role of VPE. The publications department provided a writer and ex-public relations professional for the role of vice president public relations (VPPR). Once we delegated responsibility to align with professional and personal goals, productivity soared.
4 Communicate Clear Goals and Expectations
Have you ever had a boss give you a task with the vague directive to “Take care of it”? I encountered this scenario when, three months into a new position, I was assigned a high-profile annual corporate publication. After working tirelessly on copy, I proudly presented my supervisor with a completed draft two weeks ahead of schedule. When I got it back, I was shocked to find “This is not a report” scrawled across the top. How embarrassing! Due to unclear expectations, I failed to meet goals.
When you delegate …
- Provide clear instructions on how to complete the task. This may require some teaching or coaching. Send a follow-up email with instructions to provide a written reference to expectations.
- Set a task completion date and follow-up system. Agree on the following:
- How often do you expect updates?
- How do you expect to receive updates (email, verbal, etc.)?
- Project completion timeline and schedule.
- Trust but verify. Keep communication open by checking in and evaluating progress, but be careful not to micromanage. Give some creative license and allow your team to complete tasks in a way they feel good about. Verify progress to ensure their hard work is driving them toward the correct destination.
- Be realistic with expectations. Use group consensus to agree on deadlines and workloads. Don’t push someone to take on more or to adopt a task with which they feel uncomfortable.
“Get over the belief that you need to do everything with your own hands.”
5 Cultivate Cultural and Shared Responsibility
A previous group leader placed a book on everyone’s desks before work one morning. We opened an email listing this book as required reading material. When ordered to complete book-club-style discussions, most of us resisted. The content or purpose of the book didn’t matter; it was the delivery that failed. Her intentions were to foster a healthy team, but her ineffective delegation caused more harm than good and undermined her authority. Remember, without group buy-in you are simply giving orders.
Involve the group:
- Keep the tasks open and allow team members the room to develop their own tasks.
- Elicit volunteers for task completion.
- Enforce shared goals and a common purpose. Use group consensus to make decisions.
Learning the art of delegation is a necessary skill for all leaders—in Toastmasters and beyond. For those of you joining as new leaders this term, jump right in and start delegating! The great thing about Toastmasters is that it’s a safe place to make mistakes—as long as we learn from them.