Passing the Buck: The Art of Delegation


Take a good look at your to-do list. (And if you don’t have a to-do list, make one.) Then ask yourself, “Which of these tasks really requires my skills to complete and which ones can an hourly employee be taught to perform?” You can pick any one of the tasks singled out for delegation and safely say that, by performing this task, you’re only worth the cost of what you could pay to have it done. Think about it. Your greatest skills should be coaching, teaching, business analysis, and decision making, not doing tasks someone else could do just as well.

Based on your job task analysis, make some decisions about delegation. Who will do what? This process does more than relieve you of some mundane responsibilities and free up time — it’s a key element to becoming a successful leader. The temptation is to resist delegation, either because you lack confidence in employees’ ability or you feel it would be quicker to do the job yourself. Both reasons may be valid in the short run, but over time you’ll be better off passing the buck – within reason – and raising competency levels along the way.

Steps to Effective Delegation

  • Brainstorm everything you do as a manager, then figure out what to delegate and who can handle it.
  • Consider employees’ skill levels, interest in doing the task and workload.
  • Don’t micro-manage. Agree beforehand how and when you’ll be following up on progress.
  • Set performance standards. Anticipate pitfalls and how to avoid them.
  • Think positively. Trust employees to get the job done, even if they’re short on experience.
  • Compare results against original desired outcomes. Provide encouraging feedback, even for partial accomplishments.

Your employees want to be more involved in your operation. They’re capable of multi-tasking, which shakes up the daily routine of their current jobs and gives them a feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes with contributing to the success of your business. Stop saying, “It’s easier for me just to go ahead and do it.” Start teaching. Start coaching. And remember: People development takes time.

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