888-368-0009 [email protected]

The 4 Steps to Delegating are a Piece of CAKE


Delegating is a tough task. Delegating can be very frustrating, especially when I can do it myself faster, and the job will come out just the way I like. However, delegating is a critical skill that can make or break a leader and an organization. More importantly, a study in the Academy of Management Journal demonstrated that less delegating causes slower promotion and career growth. As leaders, we can and should do better at delegating.

Leaders must learn how to delegate effectively. Too many times, information on delegating gets cumbersome with too many steps. Consequently, the process must be more straightforward. A study in the Psychological Science journal revealed that efficient learners use strategies, such as chunking, keyword linking, and sequencing. With this in mind, let’s break down delegating to a four-step process and keyword link it to CAKE.

Practical delating consists of four steps using the acronym CAKE.

C – Can I delegate this task to someone else?

A – Assign the task.

K – Know-how. Does the person have the know-how to complete the task?

E – Entrust the task to the person.

C – Can I Delegate?

The first step is deciding if you may assign the task. Leaders should ask a few questions to ascertain if the job qualifies for delegation.

Am I required by law to perform this task?

Am I required by organizational policy to perform this task?

Will this task help professionally develop another employee?

If you are required to perform the task (by law, for example), you should not delegate the responsibility. However, if you determine another person could perform the job, then you move to the next step in the process, assigning the task.

A – Assign the Task

Delegating is much like hiring. You must hire the right person. Similarly, you must assign the job to the right person. Interestingly, a study in the Career Development International journal revealed that to assign the task, the leader must trust the follower, and the follower must trust the leader. Follow these general rules when determining the right person for the job:

Assign tasks to the employee that will professionally develop the most from its completion. If they are all equal, then:

  • Assign sizable projects or tasks to your most confident employees.
  • Assign different and unique tasks to your most tenured employees.
  • Assign time-sensitive or crucial tasks to your most organized employees.

K – Know-how: Does the Person Have the Know-how?

Next, you need to determine if that person has the know-how to complete the job. Consequently, making this determination may be as simple as asking the employee. Other times, asking may not be practical, especially if the situation is more sensitive. Use the following questions when considering the employee’s know-how:

Does the employee have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to complete the assignment?

If not, do I have the time, means, and ability to train the employee? Even though it is not directly linked, a study in the Journal of Educational Research showed task-based instruction was more effective versus traditional instruction for middle-school language learners. Therefore, by keeping the guidance task-based, your odds of retention increase.

When determining know-how, it is vital that if the employee lacks knowledge and you cannot provide that missing knowledge, it would be best to revisit the assigning step in the process.

E – Entrust them to Complete the Delegated Task

Perhaps the most critical step in delegating is entrusting the work to the employee and allowing them to succeed. Followers trust that leaders will act in their best interest and afford the leader a measure of vulnerability. To ensure task completion, leaders should extend a measure of vulnerability to the follower. To build greater trust, a study in the Personnel Review journal revealed that leaders must explain to the employee the importance of the responsibility and vulnerability you have for job completion. For larger tasks, it may be helpful to break it down to smaller sub-tasks and conduct mini-meetings at various intervals to monitor progress and resolve concerns. Much like goal setting, smaller sub-tasks can inspire greater motivation through a sense of attainability.


Delegating can be very frustrating. However, it is a critical skill that can make or break a leader and an organization. As leaders, we can do a better job of delegating. Therefore, the delegation process should not be complicated. Leaders may more effectively delegate by remembering that the four steps of delegating are a piece of CAKE.


You can better face your Leadership Challenge by joining SHVA’s leadership development engagements.

If you are looking to improve your job or find a new one, SHVA’s Career Coaching can help!

If you are looking for confidential executive coaching, SHVA’s Executive Coaching can help!

For those of you searching for general life coaching, SHVA offers general Life Coaching now!