Delegate or Die: 10 Decisive Delegation Actions

By: Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing & VAR/ISV Business Advisor at the RSPA 

To help VARs and ISVs delegate effectively, the RSPA is creating a series of blog posts that will dissect delegation into tangible, digestible actions. Access Part 1 of our series here (The 5 Steps to Effective Delegation), Part 2 here (Systems + Controls = Maximum Delegation), and read Part 3 below. In addition:


The concept of delegation can be summed up in six simple (yet magical) words: I do. We do. You do.

Do the job well yourself, then work with the person you’re delegating to before you watch them do the job well themselves.

But what are the specific actions underneath those six enchanted words that will help you effectively delegate? I offer these 10 executable steps.

Attract, hire, and retain top quality employees who can build the business better than your current best
Hiring isn’t just about filling an open role or addressing an immediate need. You should be building “bench strength” inside your company – creating a team that can shape your organization’s future. In short, don’t waste a job offer on someone who can’t be promoted. Implement these five winning recruiting strategies to find the right new hires.

When hiring, don’t “trust your gut”
You can’t accurately assess a candidate’s character and aptitude over a cup of coffee with them or by reading their resume. Implement a best-practice hiring system that will reveal who you can delegate to (i.e. who you should hire) and who won’t fit into your long-term plans. I recommend spending 8-12 hours with a candidate executing your hiring process before making a job offer. I know that sounds like a lot, but how much time, energy, and grief will it require for you to rehire that person’s replacement? Through the RSPA’s Business Advisory services, we offer assessment tools and a best practice pre-interview framework so you don’t have to build a hiring system from scratch. Email for details on these resources.

Promote those who live by your company values …
If you want to delegate, you need to elevate the right people. I’m a big fan of treating everyone on your team fairly but that doesn’t mean you treat them equally. If a team member is advancing their skills, you should keep pace by increasing their pay, updating their title, and expanding their job description. Promotions and pay raises shouldn’t be based solely on tenure; reward those who are high character and produce results.

… and terminate those who don’t
I don’t like firing people. I’ve had to do that a few times during my career, and it makes me queasy just thinking of the related emotions and hard conversations. But what makes me more nauseous is the thought of losing a high performer because I tolerated a low performer for too long. A healthy culture is vital to retain high-capacity employees. You might tolerate a poor performer for months, quarters, or years, but quality employees won’t wait that long. If a team member can’t meet your standard, they need to get good or get gone. As management pioneer Henri Fayol wrote, “The unwilling or unable must be removed from the enterprise.”

Perform a “work study”
That’s right – we don’t get to the actual delegation process until step five. You’ve got to get your team right first. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200 until you get your team right. As Ritz-Carlton co-founder Horst Schulze says, “If the culture of the organization isn’t right, it will devour your best-laid plans.”

To perform a “work study,” record your activities in 30-minute increments. After four to six weeks, divide your activities into three buckets of what can be Delegated, Automated, or Eliminated. Then list which major responsibilities will be delegated to who and the expected timeframe. And then …

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Meet 1-on-1 as frequently as necessary
The speed of effective delegation is nothing like a quarterback handing off a football to his running back. That takes one motion and only a matter of seconds. Effective delegation is more like that party game where you transfer cotton balls from one bowl to another using only a small spoon or petroleum jelly on your nose – one cotton ball at a time, carefully, slowly, delicately. These 1-on-1 meetings give you the opportunity to explain nuances of the job you’re handing off and enable your staff member to ask both specific and big picture questions. I’ve said for years, “There’s no substitute for a competent manager getting closer to a situation,” and these individual meetings are a vital tool in your delegation arsenal.

Teach Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking is the process of determining what you want to accomplish (the outcomes), evaluating what you know, and determining what actions must be taken to achieve that outcome. An employee who thinks critically will be able to analyze complex situations your company’s policies or past practices may not specifically address. Company documents, business books, and articles can detail the steps required to solve some core problems. But these documents alone will not be completely effective because, especially for complex issues, documented objectives cannot be detailed enough to match specific situations.

The Critical Thinking process will be most necessary when the answer to the problem is not self-evident. Teach Critical Thinking so the employee you’re delegating to is prepared when they encounter a problem that needs solved or a situation that needs planning. For years I’ve shared with my teammates a six-step Critical Thinking framework which serves as a foundation to many of our work conversations. I’m happy to share that important framework with you and your team through reading materials, worksheets, and a Critical Thinking workshop. Just email me at and we can set up a time to talk. (Note: Only RSPA members are eligible for workshop participation.)

Establish systems and controls
We covered systems and controls in detail in Part 2 of this Delegate or Die series.

Avoid “ignorant empowerment” …
Empowering employees is a good thing, right? Not always. Only empower someone if they have the knowledge and skills to accomplish the job at or above an acceptable standard. You wouldn’t like it if you were being wheeled in for heart surgery and heard the lead surgeon say to the first-year medical student standing next to him, “Hey, Billy, how about you grab a scalpel and give this a whirl?” Don’t back away from the job you’re delegating until the employee has proven to you they can perform the job well consistently. If you bail too quickly, you’ll build a “house of cards” that will collapse in a matter of months or quarters which will cause you to jump back in to clean up the mess.

… but don’t delegate too slowly
On the flip side, don’t work arm-and-arm with the employee until every single last detail of the job is performed exactly the way you would do it. Over the years I’ve talked with several SMB owners who say, “Nobody will ever provide customer service like me” or “I can’t find anybody who’s as good a salesperson as me.” My response is they’re probably correct; nobody can service and sell as well as the company founder/owner. But being 90% as good as you or even 70% as good as you probably meets or exceeds the business acceptable standard. And, over time, that employee will develop additional experience that will continue to advance them through the learning curve.

If you delegate too slowly, you’ll trade months or years of your business life for less. If you fail to delegate, the size of your business will stay the same. Embrace these 10 executable delegation steps to attain the growth, profits, and sanity you deserve.

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Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Marketing and a Business Advisor for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by 420MSP, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact