How to delegate to people you don’t manage by collaborating

If you have read about time management, you’ve often come across the tip to delegate tasks to others. Many people shrug their shoulders on this tip, saying: “How? I don’t have anybody reporting in to me!” Then they move on to the next tip just to miss a huge opportunity. Learn a better way to “delegate” even if nobody reports in to you!

You don’t need a title to be a leader. –Multiple Attributions

To get important things done, you need to first understand what is important.

Once you know this, start thinking about what needs to be done to accomplish an important task and who has the right skills to support you. This step alone is the key to unlocking your natural leadership. You don’t need to build a huge plan. All that is required is a vision of how the outcome will look and a rough path to get there. This can be done in one hour. Just ask yourself what is the biggest problem of your customer or key stakeholder right now; that’s one shortcut to faster prioritisation. Let’s call this the foundation of “your idea” or “your vision.”

The first thing you need to understand is that delegation is clearly NOT the way to go!

Sounds strange? In today’s world, people have increasing discretion about what they do. Herein lies the opportunity for you to get people involved even if they do not report to you, but this will not work if you want to delegate because this will create the opposite effect of what you want to achieve. Nobody will use their discretionary time to be “delegated” something from you because everyone has their own concepts about prioritisation in their department.

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it. —Andrew Carnegie

Start by presenting your idea and vision, and then you ask what they want to get out of that. Ask yourself and ask the people! This often will be along the lines of some recognition and appreciation paired with an interesting task that challenges them; people like to solve the problems of tasks that further their skills.


How to delegate to people you don’t manage from Murat Uenlue

What you read in most time management sources on transferring responsibilities is simply outdated

It reflects on a world as it probably existed 20 to 50 years ago. It’s still existent in some companies, but it’s increasingly diminishing. You are much better off forgetting all that you have read about delegation. Here are some tips on how to get people to support you when they don’t report to you.

Don’t “delegate” – listen:

Yes, you are the creator of the idea, and you may have planned things well and have a great vision. The biggest mistake you can make is to blindly try to push through your initial idea at any cost. When you want to involve others, they’ll want to contribute to the idea and vision. You have to be open-minded, put your ego in the background and listen. Disengage others early, and you will see that nobody will support you.

Don’t “delegate” – collaborate:

Again, you have had the idea, but that doesn’t mean that you’re the boss and treat others as your employees. If you want them to support you in their discretionary time, treat them as a team of peers. The way to remain the leader of this pack is to show your commitment by being a role-model in putting your own extra-time into it for better overall collaboration.

Don’t “delegate” – energise:

Show your commitment, show the path and vision, remove obstacles and energise the others. Make them give their little extra energy. Studies show that 50 percent of employees give the least amount of effort that is required to keep their job! This is shocking on the one hand and an opportunity on the other hand. Imagine the amount of energy that sits in your department unutilised. Tap into it!

Don’t “delegate” – share:

Share all the good stuff, not the boring bits. Share the interesting tasks, share your vision, share the glory, share information, but also share the responsibility and accountability to contribute to the outcomes.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch


Don’t “delegate” – empower:

Give people wiggle room and accept occasional failure. It’s better to fail often initially so long as you’re willing to learn. If you have agreed Joe will be responsible for doing the research for the task, let him do it his own way. Provided you have chosen the right person and communicated the vision well, you’ll be surprised how great the results will be.


Don’t “delegate” – support:

You want others to support your great ideas? Support others! Reciprocate the favor. Take time to get them closer to their goals. You’ll build rapport and an ongoing alliance. Build a powerful informal team that supports each other to solve the company’s or department’s biggest problems.

Don’t “delegate” – communicate:

Communicate your great idea and see how people react. You might get support from people you hadn’t expected. You’re much better off with people who willingly support you then people who are half-hearted. You might also find people with skills that you haven’t been aware of. When communicating, make sure you listen well. Don’t take criticism as bad. Check the reasons behind criticism: is someone genuinely trying to make you aware of a flaw in your ideas, or does someone feel threatened? In that case, you can involve them and leverage their knowledge to improve the project. See the opportunity behind both positive and negative feedback.

Don’t “delegate” – do:

Sometimes you’ll need to do the less exciting parts of a project yourself. The key is not to selfishly give boring tasks to others and keep the interesting bits for yourself. This will dramatically boost your credibility, integrity and free other’s energy that they were holding back until they saw you’re willing to do some grunt work yourself.

Don’t “delegate” – appreciate:

Acknowledge the contributions of others. We all have a cognitive bias that makes us see our own contribution in a disproportionally large way when it comes to success. Appreciate others’ contributions and give appropriate feedback. Honest appreciation builds rapport, an essential ingredient to team success.


By now it should be clear: trying to delegate a boring task is bound to fail in today’s world where people have more and more discretion over their tasks. If someone is being asked by a colleague to support them with an exciting task, and at the same time, you ask them for support on a mundane task, you don’t need to be Einstein to guess the outcome.

Companies increasingly promote people that show natural leadership talents by getting important things done. Being able to NOT delegate but lead in the above-mentioned ways will pave the road for your future success.

Don’t forget that the above-mentioned tips are just a starting point; just like any other skill, you will need to develop them over time by deliberate practice, reflection, improvement and repetition. Have you ever seen a football player becoming great only by watching thousands of football matches? Get off your couch and kick the ball!

by Murat Uenlue