Practice managers and clinical leaders are time poor and struggle to delegate. You will often get advice that “you need to delegate more”. While you may agree with this advice, when it comes to actually delegating, the ‘buts’ in your thinking get in the way of effective delegation…

Good idea, but I don’t have enough time…….Good idea, but I don’t have enough resources…….Good idea, but my staff are not skilled enough to do that.

Quite often at the core of the delegating dilemma is the difficulty of letting go — the belief that your staff won’t do the job as well as you require or they will mess up the job and make matters worse. What will happen if you believe in them? In contrast, for some managers the difficulty in delegating is that employees might do the job very well, which may leave others to wonder why the manager’s job is necessary.

Ultimately, most managers find delegation a great tool to empower employees and increase productivity when they:

    • Recognise what effective delegation looks like
    • Determine what to delegate and to whom, to increase productivity
    • Gain benefits from delegating that impact employee commitment
    • Gain benefits from delegating that impact employee commitment
    • Learn to focus their time better on the areas needed
    • Overcome employee resistance to what you delegate
    • Identify factors that cause delegating to fail

Effective Delegation


A big misconception about delegation is the thinking that by delegating you are completely letting go of control. In reality, giving others a share in the responsibility extends influence and creates commitment to the cause. Control isn’t lost, you are just letting go of the burden of doing everything yourself!

Delegating is assigning and entrusting assignments and responsibilities to others. It isn’t just about giving people tasks to do. Tasks are the simple and short-term items of work to be done. As a manager, you probably ask your staff to do tasks nearly every day. For example “Jasmine can you have the travel sheet report to me by Wednesday?”

Delegating is about having staff take on juicy or meaningful work projects, duties and other important assignments, it’s all about how you frame it up — consider the previous task as an assignment. “Jasmine, I would like you to take on the responsibility of creating the weekly travel sheet assessment report. This will be integral to monitoring how we are tracking in this area and significantly impact our business performance moving forward …”

Don’t stop asking your employees to do tasks when needed, just recognise that it is not real delegating.

Effective delegation will result in empowerment providing that you are clear with the expectations and outcomes, provide the right support and maintain accountability.

Having delegated a job – empowerment can occur with 3 simple actions:

      1. Give the freedom to get a job done (no breathing down their neck)
      2. Provide the right level of support including information, training, resources and so on
      3. Hold them accountable to produce the outcomes needed

Understanding the Perils and Pitfalls helps you learn how to be better at delegating


      1. You don’t communicate the expected results and quality you need to see from the completed assignment.
      2. You tell the employee how to do the assignment When you tell how to do an assignments you stifle people’s desire and ability to take on responsibility and think for themselves. They focus on your methods of how to get a job done instead of the quality results needed and finding their way of achieving success.
      3. You don’t let go and even get in the way— You think you are assisting the staff member when your help is neither asked for nor needed. You undermine them.
      4. The assignment you delegate is beyond the persons capability level—You make an incorrect assumption about a staff member’s level of competency.
      5. You don’t provide any feedback — While you let the staff member have total autonomy for handling the assignment, if no progress review is given along the way you may wonder why the end results are below your expectations.
      6. You give responsibility without giving support — You do not provide initial guidance, training, information, equipment, a budget to work with, decision-making authority or access to staff or material resources.

What could I delegate?


MAKE A MASTER LIST — Think of this as a brain dump. List all of the projects, duties, tasks and activities that you perform and are involved with. Keep the tasks as small as possible so you list all the activities and work assignments that use up your time — from big to small and really important to less important. Most clinic managers/leaders can list 20-40 on this pre-delegating list.

CATEGORIZE THE LIST — Label each item based on these guidelines:

      1. Items you can completely reassign.
      2. Items you can share or reassign in part — these items can become ones you completely delegate in the future and you do this by adding one piece of the responsibility at a time.
      3. Items you need to keep.

Ask yourself this question: If I delegate this item to one of my staff, will the time spent up front to provide the guidance and support pay off later in productivity, in how the clinic will function, or in better use of my time?. If the answer is yes — delegate it, if the answer is no — keep it.

Obviously you need to keep some items because they truly fall into your domain, e.g. for a Practice Manager this could include staff meetings, performance reviews, negotiating annual operating budgets with the GM and handling HR issues, client concerns, proactive business planning, marketing initiatives etc.



Check that you have covered the following areas to increase the likelihood of success.

      1. DELIVERABLES: These are the work products/tangible items/outcomes expected from the work done.
      2. QUALITY: Provide a picture of what a great result in producing the deliverables should look like — articulate the standards of performance you want to see happen not the details of how the job should be done.
      3. MANNER: This involves the interaction or work with others, state the positive conduct that should consistently be seen in getting the assignment done.
        It is important to provide background information and other pertinent news so there is an overview of what the assignment or responsibility entails
      4. DEFINE PARAMETERS: The boundaries or limits — budget, timeline (deadline for any milestones), feedback or information you need, level of authority and decision making.
      5. PROVIDE RESOURCES FOR SUPPORT: collaborate as to what isneeded to ensure success in the project, e.g. expenses, materials, access to information, staff, adjustments in priorities and duties, training, informing others of the employee’s new role.
        These provide regular feedback and positive reinforcement At the checkpoint meetings give both positive feedback and areas for improvement, build on success.

What’s in it for me?


As a manager/leader your time and attention are best spent maintaining productive operations and good morale in your team. If not you, who is going to take the lead in the following endeavours?

      • Pushing forward initiatives to improve processes or tackle big operational problems
      • Getting people and material resources that your staff need to get their jobs done
      • Organising staff training needs so that they perform effectively
      • Charting the clinic’s future path
      • Clarifying key work priorities
      • Representing the clinic’s needs with management
      • Challenging and developing staff to perform to their best

The problem for many managers is that these critical and strategic issues often receive little attention. It is easy to get caught up in daily tasks, minutia, projects and meetings and a leadership void in the clinic occurs. Understand the returns you get for your time investment in effective delegation:

      • Increased productivity — maximise the human resource you have in the clinic to the fullest
      • Staff development — more assistance and coverage when you are not there
      • Good creativity and solutions — your attention and time can be shifted to the big-picture stuff and you can spend more time with key people you need to be in contact with and to take on more leadership in addressing problems or moving initiatives forward
      • Less stress for you — you are no longer one person dealing with most of what goes on in your clinic

Sometimes, despite the best of efforts, people don’t want to do the work you want to delegate to them. What then?

Handling employee resistance


Low interest is most often the source behind the resistance. Discover what is affecting the low interest and uncover what is driving the resistance. Low interest mainly stems from past experiences working with you or previous managers. Explore this and what is blocking a staff member from wanting to do what you wish to delegate.

The key to overcoming the resistance is to reverse the problems that previous managers created.

    • Listen patiently and responsively to discover the concerns
    • Plan with the steps to take to ensure that the right level of support is given for success to occur
    • Explain the importance of the assignment and related big-picture stuff as you develop the plan together
    • If the assignment has meaningful benefit , spell that out
    • Reassign the job to someone else only when you see that is truly the best option under the circumstances
    • Follow through on the support efforts you agreed to and be receptive when the employee comes to you with any questions in doing the assignment