Delegating Purpose

I recently came across a blog post titled, “How to Delegate Purpose in Your Organization” by Tanveer Nasseer.  I think Tanveer is a brilliant writer and leader; his interview on the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast can be found here.  Many articles speak to leaders having to delegate, but I like Tanveer’s twist in delegating purpose.  In case you haven’t read Tanveer’s blog post, the main themes are summarized below:

  1. Discuss with your employee what it is you want to delegate and why (Anyone can delegate a task (“here – do this”), but a leader helps people understand the ‘why’ of the delegation – it makes the task pertinent and personal)
  2. Create a roadmap for how this work will be delegated over time (unless it’s a very simple task, you can’t simply tell a person to ‘just do it’.  You need to show and discuss how the person will be set up for success in taking over the task).
  3. Remind employees of the added value they now bring to your organization (not only does this increase motivation but this could spark other initiatives).

As the article highlights, one of the main reasons people delegate tasks is that they don’t like to do something – fair enough.  For me, leaders still need to look at delegation, however, even if they like a task!

Follower development

In this case, you see potential in your follower.  As such, you want to give her a task that will expand her knowledge of the organization AND will expand her personal horizons.  The task should be somewhat challenging, but still attainable – a ‘stretch’ task.  Please make sure that you are ready to give assistance should it be required; after all, you are delegating the task because you want the person to succeed now and in the future.  Set them up for success!  I’ve used this aspect in getting people to write concept papers.  Although initially overwhelming, I offer guidance and a structure to help people shape their thought process.  Once they get going, it’s amazing to see how much their problem-solving abilities improve.

When delegating tasks, #leaders make sure that they set up their followers for success!

Optimal skill employment – your lack of skill

In this case, you are not the best person for the task because you don’t have the right skill set.  I could try writing computer code, but I don’t have that knowledge now (although I will date myself by stating that I had done a science fair project about writing a program in Basic over 30 years ago).  It would take me so much time to learn to become even moderately proficient that I would not be able to do my primary job!  I’m sure that I would have fun learning, but it is not efficient.

Optimal skill employment – someone else is better

In this case, you are not the best person for the task because someone else is better at the task than you are.  Even though I may enjoy doing the task, I know that it could be done better / cheaper / quicker / at a higher quality if it was done by someone else.  For me, that would be website design – I enjoy doing it (and I’m pretty decent), but I’ll gladly task that out to an expert when it becomes time to expand.  A leader does not need to be the best at something, but a leader needs to be able to bring out the best in everyone.

Optimal skill employment – you can’t do everything! (nor should you)

Yes, you could conceivably be the best at the task.  This is a hard thing for some leaders, especially if you were formerly in the position of the person that you are now delegating the task to.  You hate to let go of your old responsibilities, but it’s time for you to move on – you have other tasks to accomplish.  Your time is better spent on being a leader, and not the technician that you used to be.


Remember, there’s more to the team than just you. Make sure that you understand your followers, that you give them purposeful tasks to grow and develop, and that you use your own time wisely. With everyone improving their “A” game, just imagine the possibilities…  By the way – leaders – please note that although you can delegate tasks and purpose, you never delegate ultimate accountability – that remains with you.

Share This