As a statistician we delegate all the time with programming being probably the most prevalent example.

In this episode, we start by showing in two personal examples how delegation improves your productivity amazingly or how it can lead into complete disaster.

Furthermore we cover the following questions:

  • Why is delegation so important?
  • Why are not only managers delegating?
  • Why should I delegate, if I can do it myself?
  • What task can I delegate?
  • How can I delegate appropriately?
  • Why are many people not delegating more actions?

By listening to this episode, you will also learn about these 4 principles of delegation:

  1. Any task should be done by the most junior team member possible.
  2. Delegate tasks in such a way, that they are interesting for the people to work on.
  3. Specify what goal you want achieved, defining together what a great outcome looks like and support as needed, but resist the urge to tell exactly how to achieve the goal.
  4. Delegate deliverables not tasks

The episodes concludes with a discussion on the how to create an environment where

  • your team members thrive,
  • you successfully reach great project outcomes,
  • people are motivated and engaged, and
  • both team members and leadership wins.

Further reading:


4 principles about effective delegation and how not only managers can benefit from it

Episode 18 of the Effective Statistician, four principles about effective delegation and how not only managers can benefit from it.

Welcome to the Effective Statistician with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Piske. The weekly podcast for statisticians in the health sector designed to improve your leadership skills, widen your business acumen and enhance your efficiency. In today’s episode we’ll talk all about delegation. Why is delegation so important? Why are not only managers delegating? Why should I delegate? If I can do it myself?

What tasks can I delegate? How can I delegate appropriately? And why are many people not delegating more actions? This podcast is sponsored by PSI, a global member organization dedicated to leading and promoting best practice and industry initiatives.

Join PSI today to further develop your statistical capabilities with access to special interest groups, the video on demand content library, free registration to all PSI webinars and much much more. Visit the PSI website at to learn more about PSI activities and become a PSI member.

Welcome to a new episode of the Effective Statistician. I’m Benjamin Piske and I’m today here with my co-host Alexander Schacht. Hello Alexander. Hi, Benjamin. How are you doing? Thanks. Alexander, today we talk about delegation, effective delegation and what delegation is, why do we delegate and I think everyone in business life does delegate tasks, hopefully.

And I think we’ve been doing this for years and successfully delegating, right, Alexander? Yes, sometimes more successful, sometimes less successful. Yeah, maybe a good point. Maybe you could give some examples for a successful delegation. And do you have an example also for like a not so successful delegation? Yeah, so a successful delegation. I can remember I had a…

I had a series of studies that I needed to get outsourced and programming for. I think outsourcing is also a form of delegation. In this, I worked very closely with the CRO and it worked so smoothly. We worked very, very closely together in the beginning.

And I think upfront there was an investment from both sides to really kind of get into the groove. But after the second study, it went so smoothly. We understood ourselves very, very nicely and it was very, very effective from both sides. Very fast, very efficient, just a great experience.

Why do you think it was successful? So do you have some key? I mean, we discuss about some more points later on, but what do you think was the key point here for a successful delegation? I think there were two key points. One was it was just the right people for the right job. And the other point was we invested a lot in communication.

at the beginning and that helped a lot. Okay. And also like an example for some not so well done working delegation. Oh yeah. I once delegated a task to a person which I

completely misunderstood the capabilities. And so the task force far too big for her and she couldn’t cope with it. She didn’t have the support she needed to get things done. And that was a complete disaster overall.

Nobody was really happy. So it’s basically about not knowing the person very well or not knowing enough about the person to delegate. Yeah. You know, thinking that you know and then you actually don’t know. So that was one of the problems. But why did you delegate? So why is it like in principle, why is it so important to delegate things?

elements of how you can work effectively, how you can get done more things. Because you have only 24 hours a day and probably you also want to sleep at least. I think that’s the best way to leverage your time is to also get work done through others.

focus on the most important tasks for yourself, for the tasks that you’re actually best at. By that, you can actually overall increase your value and your impact. You also can get additional expertise in. Sometimes it’s better to delegate something to a person that is actually better at the task than you are.

That’s why you kind of hire someone to fix your stuff at home. Yeah, absolutely. I think this is one of the key points that you try to delegate tasks to the person that is best suitable for this task. And that’s not necessarily yourself. But do you? I mean…

Obviously, you do delegate things, but is this a task then only for managers? We are talking about statisticians in general. I think this is more than managers, isn’t it? That was some big learning I had very early in my career. There was this goal to get more done through others. I said to my supervisor, well, that doesn’t apply to me because I’m not a supervisor. She said…

No, you’re misunderstanding the point. You can get done through lots of things. You can get done work through your peers or through people in other functions or you can even get work done through your manager. For specific tasks, he’ll probably be the better person to do it.

Yeah, absolutely. I think this is important. We talked about the interaction with other departments and sometimes I see myself taking on responsibilities where I reconsider it after a while saying, well, actually this is not my responsibility. So I should give this to somebody who is responsible for it or who should be responsible or you’re delegated to somebody who is more capable like statistical programming. We work together with them and actually they are

responsible for the programming and it’s not me. Yeah. And we are speaking here about delegation, not just turfing things. So yeah, and one other thing is kind of it can be inside your company, but it can also be outside your company. So outsourcing is also some form of delegation.

And what is an example, for example, if your manager is doing, if you delegate tasks to your manager? So an example could be that he might be have a better network and a better relationship with certain people. So and if you want to reach out to these people, you can, for example, do that. Yeah. So.

Let’s say you can’t get an appointment with someone that is higher up in the organization and your manager has a better relationship to that person. Well, you can get the appointment via your manager and ask him to get it done for you. Absolutely. We already mentioned it, but what are the…

benefits of delegating if you actually potentially could do the task yourself. I mean, you already mentioned that you have people with capabilities that are probably better fitting to a certain task. But what are the others? You mentioned CROs, so probably cost effectiveness. Yeah, cost is of course a big driver and I think cost in a bigger scheme of things.

The other benefit is it empowers others to get things done. Yeah, so that can be within your team or that can be within your cross-functional team. That is one other thing. Another thing is it helps to develop people. So the more you delegate, the more you give others the opportunities to grow.

and get training via these different tasks. But I think mostly it’s really about you. It’s about freeing up your time to do more important work and to deliver to your full potential. Yeah, because I think we call our podcast the effective statistician and effectiveness has a lot to do with

reaching your potential. If you spend most of your time doing little things that there’s others that could do these things, then you actually don’t have the time to work on the most important things. Yeah, I think this is a good… The thought behind delegation is not on a short term.

I mean, it is to free up your time in the afternoon if you have something to do also. But in general, I think delegation is more important really, as you mentioned, to free your time for some more important work. And the more important work is nothing in one afternoon or some one could be. But in principle, this is really delegation is something a long term strategy is to work in a team that is able to.

take on different tasks. So you need to train the others by with delegation, you need to empower others to give them the possibility to really do these tasks also in the future. So this is more than just delegating one task to one person. It’s really strategic thinking to delegate tasks over time and to get other people in your environment, in your team empowered and trained to

do these tasks or similar tasks today, next week and next month, next year? Yeah, I think that is the kind of development perspective that every supervisor should have. Generally, for everybody, I think delegation should be a habit. So, for example, if you go through your to-do list, you can photo your to-do list.

by first maybe thinking about it, do I actually need to do it at all? So can I eliminate it or can I automate it? And then the next level is actually, can I delegate it? Is there someone else that could do the job and is in a better situation? And actually following the principles that we will discuss later, delegate it in that way.

So that sounds like if everyone is delegating, who’s doing the work? The best person. Because of course you will also be on the receiving end.

And there’s of course certain tasks that you shouldn’t delegate. Absolutely. I mean, the year end review, for example.

No, but actually, what are the, it’s a good point. What are the tasks that you can or maybe should not delegate? So I think in general, there are much more tasks that you can actually delegate, that most people can think of. It’s just that you need to very often break these tasks down into delegatable pieces, so to say. But there are certain things that

especially as a leader and here not just leader in a supervisory sense, I think you can’t delegate. So things like your overall strategy or your goal setting and for supervisors, of course, oversight over your people. That is the core task for any supervisor.

taking care of your people and that’s something that you shouldn’t delegate. Yeah, I think you lose your responsibilities if you delegate these key tasks. Absolutely. Yeah. And I mean, we will put some more thoughts on this when we have the description of this podcast. But maybe just quickly.

There are certain levels of delegation. You already mentioned that you can break it down into little pieces or take a full task. Is there any advice or anything you experienced over the years or how you delegate or what level of delegation you would use? I think there are two models that are very, very helpful to have in mind. The first model is about situational leadership.

that for a specific situation, for a specific person, you need to have different ways of how you delegate. So let’s say you have a new beginner who is very motivated but has no clue what to do. So the worst thing you can do is kind of

just throw something over the fence and say, I empower you to do this. Well, you know, if he doesn’t know what exactly to do, he will just fail. So for these type of tasks in this type of situation for that person, you need to actually give him very, very close advice and instructions.

Whereas kind of on the other spectrum, there are for specific tasks, really, really strong person who knows it possibly better than you and just kind of can get the job done. So for such a task, you can be much more high level, and you need to be more empowering.

and providing good feedback. I think that’s what these situations are. But I think what very often gets mixed up here is that people think, oh, this is a high performer. All tasks I give to him is on this high level. That’s wrong. He’s a high performer on specific tasks.

If he gets something to do now that he hasn’t done before, for example, he’s now becoming a first-time supervisor. He’s never supervised people before. You can’t expect that person to be brilliant at that and delegate this supervision without any kind of additional help. That just doesn’t work.

getting a study up to speed, he has done 20 times. So that’s an easy thing for him. Yeah. And that’s, I think, what is really, really important to have in mind. Yeah, absolutely. I think high performer is not necessarily high performer. On one side is not necessarily a high performer on the other side. And this is something you have to keep in mind in order to delegate the tasks.

efficiently to somebody else in terms of taking the ownership and doing the right thing. So that is one model about the situational leadership. There’s another model that I learned by Michael Hyatt of the five levels of delegation. And just shortly, it’s kind of on the lowest level is level one kind of do exactly what I have asked you to do. You know?

Just follow exactly these instructions and then get back to me. Level two would be research the topic and report back. And then I will make some decisions and tell you what to do. Level three would be research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation. So I see the pros and cons.

and but you make a recommendation for and give me the reason why you have this recommendation. And then I can, you know, give you my decision. Level four is actually then about the decision moving to the person that you delegate to. So level four is make a decision and then tell me what you did, you know.

I trust that you have done research, that you have evaluated the different options, and I just trust that things go in the right direction. But I still need to know what you did. So don’t be… Yeah, keep me in the loop. And then level five is…

Make whatever decision you think is best. You have my full support. I trust you completely. And we anyway speak from time to time. Yeah? So.

Yeah, full trust. Yeah. And so that is, and if you combine these kind of levels with delegation to situational leadership, I think that makes a lot of sense. Yeah, absolutely. And I think you have to automatically do it to do the right decisions in terms of delegations. Otherwise, you will have situations where you see that people don’t…

work for days or whatever, how long doing the wrong things because they haven’t feed this back to you and you haven’t done, you haven’t taken the decision together with the information that somebody researched. So it’s really absolutely necessary to do the right type of delegation. I agree. But lots of people have problems with delegating. Yeah. So it’s one of the biggest mindset topics.

Yeah, because I think they do feel having less, I don’t know, not being under control, having the control about things or they feel they make themselves redundant maybe if they give things away. So it’s really, I don’t know, it is right or it’s important to learn to delegate. I think this is something that everyone, every leader…

in a management sense or also in a leadership, in a team sense. Yeah, it needs to become a habit. And also sometimes you need to invest a little bit of time. And initially it may take longer, but over time it just pays off.

Yeah, it’s true. You know, you always say, well, I have had situations, I experienced myself or also in other people from the team is that they said of them, well, if you know, I should have done it because it would have, you know, not taken so long and would have been better quality anyway. So, so yeah, but it’s a learning curve. It’s a long term decision to delegate. It’s, this is, you know, what you just said is actually a violation of our first principle of delegations that we are now talking about.

Because the first principle of delegation is any task should be done by the most junior team member possible.

Why is that? Well, it’s just from a cost perspective that just makes most sense. Of course, lots of people higher up in the organization can do lots of things. If they would do all the things they could do, they wouldn’t have time to do the things that they should do.

delegate downwards as much as possible? Well, from the cost perspective, I wouldn’t fully agree because if it takes three times as long to work on a half as much paid person, that may not be cost effective. I think this then also comes together with the learning curve and the training, what we talked about earlier.

So that the younger or the most junior team members need to get trained, familiarized and in order to step up. And of course, this is, there’s no black and white here. But having this in mind is kind of very, very important. And of course, you need to take into account, you know.

at which level people are, what are the strengths of the different people. It’s good to stretch people a little bit in terms of that they get a little bit outside of their comfort level because that’s where growth for them happens and where it’s more interesting.

And it’s good to kind of build this stretch into the tasks that you’re delegating. So that just makes it much more interesting. Yeah, I think interesting or make the task interesting is actually the second principle to delegate tasks in a way that the people are really interested to work on it.

I think if you have done a task like hundreds of times, it might be getting a little bit boring. But if it’s a new task or a new area or a new addition to the usual task, that is interesting. And this motivates people to work and to get over their daily work type and be motivated to take on the task in the best way.

I think this is quite important for day-to-day work. What you need to know for that is who’s the right person for this job in your team or cross-functionally. Also, what’s the right CRO to get the job done? So there is…

Making this puzzle work is a really, really good, great thing. And very often, things get just delegated by who has time to do it. Yeah, so just on a purely kind of workload perspective.

And that’s just, you know, I’ve seen that over and over again, that leads to lots of frustration, to overall inefficiencies. And it’s just bad management. It’s really badly. Well, yeah, I think this is one of the constraints that management has. I think management usually or a team has capacities.

to a certain level and to optimize the capacities and the availabilities and the time. I think this is difficult, but it’s not like a local optimum that you try to find in a way because you can’t move around other tasks that the perfect person would be doing. You can’t necessarily move this around. So this is really the ideal word in saying that you find for every task that you have.

team has or like a department has the absolute correct person or even delegated to external vendors. But yeah, I think this is something you need to keep in mind to find the optimal solution within the possible constraints.

And of course, as you talked about it, there’s two constraints. There’s, of course, the capacity. And then there’s the capability. And bringing these together is where the sweet spot is. So if you optimize just for one thing, it just doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work. Of course, this puts kind of more burden on you as a delegator, because you need to understand what are the strengths and interests of the different people and in decreasing effort to organize the things. But, you know, the payoff is tremendous. And just as I said in my examples that I brought in the introduction, you know, I…

For the success, I had the right CRO to do the work. For the failure, I delegated it to the wrong person. And so, hmm.

But it’s a lesson learned as well. I mean, if you don’t know before. And so that’s an ideal word. Yeah, and I think to the point of finding the right persons, I think this is not only a successful story for you or me as a delegator, but it’s also for the team itself. If they’re successful, if they’re receiving the right tasks, they’re motivated. They’re satisfied.

It’s a win-win situation, basically, if you delegate the correct tasks to the right people. And that will overall lead to better retention of the people. And that is actually also a big cost driver. If you need to train people over and over again because you don’t manage them accordingly and you just manage them to their workload, not to their interest, well…

People leave.

Alright, what’s… Or in cross-functional teams, actually, you know, maybe the mood deteriorates, because you know, always, you know, people don’t think that they are working on interesting stuff. Yeah. So yeah. What is the third principle, Alexander?

The third principle is that you need to specify what goal you want to achieve. Define together how success looks like and what support the person needs that you’re delegating to. But resist to urge to tell them exactly how they need to achieve.

taking their own decisions and making their own decisions and tasks and don’t feel like I’m in it. Yeah. There’s actually an interesting thing in terms of leadership from the military. So, yeah, I learned about that.

I was also at the military here in Germany, but that’s another story. But in the German military, they also delegate tasks in that way, that they delegate the goal that needs to be achieved. Get your truck by that time to that spot.

But they don’t tell you, you need to take this exact road or whatever, because things may happen. Maybe there’s an accident or whatever. And so they can decide on their own what is in this situation the best way to reach that goal.

you know, strengths, the occasion, the situation, all the side constraints that, you know, you as a delegator may not see, yeah? When the person’s actually in the task, doing the task, he sees all these other details and that he needs to kind of manage. And of course, you know, we have…

general sight lines, you know, we have procedures and all these kind of things, but they don’t tell you exactly, you know, to the most granular detail what to do. And the other point is I think it’s really important for understanding what success looks like. This is the motivation. Yeah, that’s what it was.

I’m just saying or trying to, is that the goal, what is the goal and what is the successful reaching of the goal? I think this is the motivation that at the end will be remembered and keep the motivation for the next task. It’s really the goal.

So just another example on that. For example, you want to set up a team event, a team meeting where you get together. And you get the job, OK, organize this face-to-face meeting where all the people from your team get together.

But what’s the goal? The goal is not to organize this event. The goal is you want to reach something with this event. What do you want to reach? Do you want to train people on a specific topic? Do you want to build team spirit? What’s the goal behind this task? And if people don’t understand that, well, they will set up some things that is maybe

completely off what was initially the underlying goal. We looked into the calendars and looked at the free spot in the calendars. Yeah, and then they organized a couple of sessions on some random topics. And as I think, well, job done. Yeah, but not reached the goal. And what about the fourth?

The fourth principle is actually something that I learned from listening to another podcast, Manager Tools. I can highly recommend that. And that is you shouldn’t delegate tasks, but deliverables. We should not delegate tasks, but deliverables. Yeah.

The task and the deliverable is the task plus reporting back. Because the background to that is, if the organization doesn’t know that something has happened, and basically the organization knows by the person reporting back to the supervisor, or to the person that delegated.

Then only the information about that job was done is in the system. Otherwise, it doesn’t really have value for the organization. And also from a delegated perspective, that takes burden off from you. Absolutely. I think it’s part of the… I think we will have this in a separate podcast. It’s kind of this feeds into the selling your achievements areas where, you know, when you

Have a task. Completing the task is one thing, but reporting it back correctly is the other thing. Yeah. Exactly, exactly. Yes, it will be a topic of an upcoming episode. OK.

Some final thoughts. So we have gone through these four different principles now. So principle number one was any tasks should be done by the most junior team member possible. And number two was delegate tasks in such a way that they’re interesting for the people to work on. Number three was specify what goal you want to achieve.

And number four was delegative deliverables, but not tasks. We had some kind of additional thoughts on this topics that didn’t really fit into these kinds of principles. And one of this was that you need to create an environment where your team members can thrive, where you know, this is good.

project outcomes, there’s lots of motivation and there’s high employee engagement. And that will lead to success of both team members, but also the general leadership. And also in terms of leadership, if you think of leader without a title, if you can lead your study team to success, that will also…

you know, make you successful. And of course, there’s always kind of initial upfront investment in this. So, you know, we have talked about a couple of things that, you know,

that you need to invest some time in getting the things right. But it pays off. And even failure is sometimes an investment. Find out if people are able or capable to take the task out. So if there’s never failure in delegation, then you’re probably not stretching enough.

On our homepage, actually, we have some further reading for this. Just visit the effe or click in your podcast app on the link and you will find the show notes. Thanks Alexander for the summary and thanks for listening. You’ll hear more from us next week. Bye.

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