The ROI on delegation

Register now

You know a daily multi-vitamin is good for you. They’re a relatively low-cost, long-term investment in your future well-being. But yet, they are so easy to avoid. Taking them is just one more thing to do. And since you know you can survive today without them, you push them aside.

The same applies to delegating at your firm.

I want to challenge you to see delegation as a tool to help you maximize your leadership position. Through delegating, you are investing in the long-term success of not only your firm, but also your team. It might cost you a little time up front, but if it contributes to a healthy bottom-line, it might just be a pill worth swallowing.

Delegation is challenging; here's why

In one of my workshops, we dive into this topic. As part of the discussion, I ask the accounting professionals in the room to identify their biggest challenge with delegating. The responses from a sample of 55 are in the chart below (note that some listed more than one challenge).

It’s not surprising that time and quality concerns rank highest. Time is of the essence and letting go is always easier said than done. But I am here to assure you that delegating work is worth it — for you as a leader, and your firm.

Delegation is an investment

Sure, properly delegating a task takes time. But consider for a moment the time you will save yourself in the long-run by handing off a task.

You could spend three hours doing the task and check it off the list. On the other hand, you could spend four hours teaching and coaching a member of your team to do the task. This may look like a poor return on investment … spending four hours teaching someone who will probably take five hours to do the work. Why would you want to allocate nine hours of time to something you could have done in three? It will pay off overtime; here's how:


Your Time

Delegatee's time Total
First Delegation


Delegate, monitor, review


5 9
Gain/loss of time


Second Delegation


Delegate, monitor, review


4 6
Gain/loss of time


Third Delegation


Delegate, monitor, review


3.5 4
Gain/loss of time



The real ROI is this:

  • You can repurpose 2.5 hours that would’ve been spent on the task to work on other, higher value-add tasks.
  • Your team members will gain confidence and independence.
  • They’ll feel good because they are learning and growing in their career, and making meaningful contributions to the team.
    Now consider multiplying that well-trained team member by five.

You’ll be able to serve more clients, further grow your firm, and still feel confident in the quality of work that your team is producing. The leverage model is profitable. Delegation investment for the win!

Tips for successful delegation

When you delegate a task to a team member, they see it as an opportunity to do a good job and prove their value to you. At the same time, they don’t want to appear inept. Here are some tips to get positive results on the tasks you delegate:

1. Handoff details. When it comes to handing off the project, there are several details to consider that will contribute to the delegatee’s success, and that quality factor that many delegators are concerned about. Be sure to set clear expectations about the duration of the project, its priority level, and the deliverable date.

2. Choose the right words. Skip the over-used “let me know if you have any questions” and replace it with one of these:

  • “I anticipate you’ll have questions on this since it’s a new project.”
  • “What questions do you have so far?” Ask this question when you’re finished with the handoff and at check-in points.
  • “Let’s set up a time to go through your questions.”

3. Monitor progress. For some, this can sound like micromanaging. But it's not. Scheduling regular, appropriate, check-in times ensures that you can monitor the delegatee’s work and answer their questions throughout the process. The end product will be better because you’ve made this investment in communication.

Pro tip: I suggest beginning check-in meetings with “walk me through what you’ve done so far.”

Delegation can free up your time to do what leaders are supposed to do — take the firm to new heights through strategy-setting, business development, high-level client service, staff engagement, and more. And once you get in the habit, I’m willing to bet it will still be easier than remembering to take that daily multi-vitamin.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Practice management Practice structure