5 Things A Manager Should Never Delegate

Merriam-Webster defines delegation as ‘the act of empowering to act for another’. In business parlance, we call it assigning the authority to carry out tasks and make decisions. 

Some people find it hard to delegate as they don’t think anyone will carry out the tasks as diligently as they will. But delegating is crucial to fulfilling a manager’s role efficiently. It’s important to delegate some duties so that you can concentrate on what only you can or should do. And this is where today’s topic comes in – tasks that managers should never delegate.

If you would like to learn how to delegate work successfully with a qualified trainer, try our one-day Line Manager training course.

Deciding What You Can And What You Can’t Delegate

The responsibility of a manager involves deciding what you can and can’t delegate. And responsibility in management is a curious business. It seems that even when we manage well, the more we delegate, the more responsibility there still is to go around. 

Modern-day managers have the somewhat unenviable task of achieving the goals and mission of their organization by figuring out what responsibility rests on their shoulders – and then shrewdly determining what accountability they can place on others.

Deciding what you can and can’t delegate involves evaluating if it’s critical that you do the task. By delegating will you be giving someone else the chance to improve their skillset?  Is it likely to be a recurring job? Will you save yourself time by delegating, factoring in any training or checking up involved?

These are some considerations before sparking the flame of responsibility and accountability in those you manage. Tomes have been written about the ways in which great managers inspire accountability in the workplace.

Just recently I wrote about ways to build trust, especially given the challenges of remote work environments. 

Considering the flipside of managing responsibility – that which you should never outsource – is an interesting way to cut a swathe through all the managerial tips, allowing you to pause and remind yourself where the buck stops. 

5 Things A Manager Should Never Delegate

Our Top 5 Things A Manager Should Never Delegate are company culture, hiring and firing, coalface occasions, leading change, and monitoring performance.

Company Culture

It remains incumbent on a good manager to foster a culture that your co-workers buy into and then feed off of.

Team building events are a creative way of shaping work dynamics that will ultimately lead to increased productivity. Again, even with the challenges of remote working, there are virtual escape rooms that you can organize as a way to demonstrate to your team that you’re thinking out of the box.

Celebrating work milestones is a great way to buoy team morale and offer praise. This is something that should come from your lips as a way of nurturing company talent whenever possible. 

Related to your company’s culture are the traditions and etiquettes of everyday life that any reputable company manager will observe – remembering religious holidays, attending the wedding or the funeral of a colleague.

Often it is these small things that fall outside of the 9 to 5 that earn you respect as a manager with compassion. Don’t just send flowers – attend in person. 

Hiring And Firing

You want to look someone in the eye when you hire them; and you need the same steadfast resolve when it’s time to tell someone that their time is up.

When it comes to sourcing new talent, remember that it’s your team culture to create and preserve. You don’t want to outsource finding talent to your HR department. 

Calling up the reference of a prospective candidate yourself to find out their reasons for leaving their previous place of employment may make you a better manager for them if it works out in the long run that you end up hiring them. 

Likewise, when it comes to the tough decisions around terminating a contract, your team looks to you as the manager who is prepared to lead when a ruthless or pragmatic change of tack needs to be executed. 

Delegating those awkward conversations means shirking your leadership duties. Over time, this will come back to haunt you. 

Coalface Occasions

Coalface occasions are moments where a good manager needs to front up and not outsource opportunity or crisis. This is similar to the yin and yang of welcoming new staff and severing old ties.

Being available to meet a prospective client and build a new relationship that might start over a power lunch would probably be considered one of the perks of the job. You can always later place the onus of ongoing client relationship management on the right employee. 

The first impression here with regards to new investment and new partners is what will help define you as a leader out in the world. 

Back at the office, when it is ‘crunch time’, you need to roll up your sleeves if there is a deadline or a crisis that needs to be managed just as readily as when you’re popping out for that power lunch.

If you set the bar high when times are tough, your colleagues will aim for that in their regular day-to-day.

Leading Change

Change is always afoot – so always be leading that change. You can’t afford to lag behind when it comes to transformational change at work, or exploring new opportunities for growth in other sectors. 

Spearhead any change that is required. This may be company reorganization or outlining office policies in an age where anyone can land themselves in hot water.

This will place you at the vanguard of career opportunities by positioning yourself to identify and effect needed change. It will also lead to a fresher articulation of your company’s vision that you can claim responsibility for. 

Individual personal development will then lead on from this as your team gets to grips with where their skill set needs to improve. This may be understanding a new industry or learning how to treat others with respect. 

Monitoring Performance

Monitoring performance means maintaining the autonomy of those you’ve inspired with your delegation. Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy, once said that ‘Delegation and autonomy lead to human magic only when people are both skilled and motivated.’

What I love about this quote is that it speaks to the ethereal nature of ‘human magic’ as a key ingredient of managerial success. There is something about a manager’s job – which goes on behind the scenes, seemingly unnoticed – that is almost elusive in the attempts to scientifically define what it is. 

We’ve looked at keeping your staff motivated. Previously I’ve addressed how micromanaging can be frowned upon by your staff. So autonomy is really something that you are after in the workplace. 

The key to this then, in an attempt to create that ‘human magic’, is performance monitoring. Though tedious, sitting in on staff appraisals on a quarterly basis keeps even low-level employees accountable to you.

Likewise, you are kept in the loop of any personal staff dynamics. This keeps you in touch with your role as a manager who practices empathy and remains involved. You are able to spot a problem coming and/or opportunity knocking. 

Then, when it comes to dishing out an award of recognition at the office drinks party, you will speak from experience to the staff member about the goal that was once defined and has now been achieved. 

The corollary to this of course is imposing discipline. Avoid setting yourself up as the ‘good times manager’. Do the dirty work of confronting a subordinate if they have stepped out of line. Your job is to set the rules and then be on hand to hold someone accountable if they are broken. 

In between setting the rules and acting decisively when they are broken is ensuring that your staff are following the rules. If you’re doing a good job yourself, your time management shouldn’t allow for you to be hassling with this. 

Final Thoughts

As I’ve demonstrated in this article, certain responsibilities managers should never delegate. There are extremes or polarities that in part define good management and simply cannot be outsourced

In between is where you should allow for the magic to happen. Then, the more responsibility that is dished out, the more it will be well received. This will prove better for all and, ultimately, not so curious after all. 

If you’re looking for more information about leadership, our article about top tips for supervisors might give you some good ideas on how to be a better team leader.


About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.