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10 Things a Manager Should Never Delegate

BY DAN MCCARTHY    Updated on November 24, 2018

No, this isn’t an article about how important it is for a manager to delegate or how to delegate. Honestly, that’s what I started writing, and then got bored with it. I mean, most managers know they should delegate, and doing it isn’t exactly rocket science. So why don’t they?

The reasons most managers don’t delegate are complex, often wrapped up in values, identify, trust, power, control, and fear. So we’ll save that article for another day – that is, something on why managers don’t delegate.

This article examines the other extreme end of the delegation continuum – the handful of things a manager should never delegate. Everything else is fair game.

1. Vision. Vision is the essence of leadership, so if a manager attempts to hand off the creation of a vison to someone else (a consultant, a team, a team member), they may as well be delegating away their leadership. Sure, it’s often a good idea to get others involved in the creation of a vision – for more on that, see How to Align Your Team Around a Shared Vision. This is one area where the manager is going to set the stage, be very involved, and ultimately, have final approval.

2. Hiring decisions. I’ve also seen managers be overly dependent on search consultants, agencies, search committees, and HR for finding talent and making hiring decisions. I may be an outlier when it comes to this, but I believe hiring talent is one of the most important things a manager can do in order to be successful. Why would you delegate such an important process? I even go as far as to insist on doing my own phone screens and background checks. I want to talk to former bosses myself, in order to verify things the candidate told me, or to gain valuable information that will help me be a better manager for the candidate if hired.

3. Onboarding a new employee. I don’t care what the level, from senior executive to entry level employee, the manager needs to take a hands-on role in helping a new employee feel welcomed. They should take an active role in the onboarding and training plan, and clear their schedules as much as possible in order to make time for the new employee. A best case example: the sales manager that personally greets each new employee at the door when they arrive. The worst example: the sales manager on a business trip for two weeks and never even sees the new employee.

4. Discipline. I once worked for a manager that delegated firing his administrative assistant to me. Seriously. Other managers will pass off discipline to their HR manager. That’s just wrong, and completely disrespectful to the employee. Managers need to step up and handle their own dirty work when it comes to progressive discipline.

5. Praise and recognition. Managers that are, “just no good at this recognition and praise stuff,” will come up with all kinds of creative ways to avoid this important leadership responsibility. They have people ghost write recognition letters and speeches, create peer recognition programs (as a substitute, not as a complement), and have their administrative assistants buy gifts for their employees. In order for recognition to be effective, it needs to be sincere and personal, and delegating it to someone else sort of defeats the purpose.

6. Motivation. It’s up to the leader to create a motivating environment. For more on this, see Ten Ways to Motivate Your Employees. And sorry, creating a motivating environment doesn’t include creating a “fun committee.”

7. Leading transformational change. A leader needs to be directly involved – no, not just involved, but leading the effort when it comes to large-scale, transformational changes. It’s the leader’s role to establish the vision for the change (see number one), and there are just too many things that can go wrong to leave transformational changes in the hands of committees or consultants. See Ten Models for Leading Change.

8. Reorganizations. See Guidelines for Reorganizing Your Department or Company. Again, as with many other of the responsibilities on this list, getting others involved is a good thing. I’ve never seen a management team be able to objectively reorganize themselves – the leader needs to make the tough calls that no one else wants to make.

9. Development. A leader’s development can’t be delegated to HR, an executive coach, or the training department. Yes, those are all supporting resources, but the leader needs to own their own development, as well as the development of their direct reports.

10. Performance appraisals. One of my favorite management pet peeves – having employees write their own self-assessments and then the manager signs off on it as the final appraisal. See The Top Ten Performance Appraisal Blunders a Manager Can Make for this blunder and others.

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