Tips for virtual delegation

Some of us find we’re much more productive working from home, using tech tools to communicate virtually. The rest of us find it harder to deflect or deal with distractions and stay focussed to get the job done. Some people find that, despite the use of email, video calls and chat channels, communication suffers. This is particularly relevant for managers when it comes to delegation, which can all too easily derail when working face to face, let alone virtually.

What’s missing when we’re WFH are those chance moments of seeing a colleague and having a brief conversation, “How are you getting on with that project?” or, “Have you got any questions about [the task]?” There’s no bumping into someone in the lift or the coffee queue, no possibility to stop by their desk for a quick chat. What needs to be done the same and what should be done differently to make virtual delegation work?


  • Whatever the medium, good delegation requires preparation. To involve and engage people and avoid misunderstandings, managers need to set the scene for the task. Why does it exist? Where does it fit in with the wider team, organisation and their performance? If you’re going to brief someone virtually, note your answers to those questions and have them handy.
  • Gather a few examples of what good looks like – links to docs, spreadsheets, plans, slide decks, etc. – and share them (via email or chat channel) with the person you’ll be delegating to before you discuss the brief with them. Ask your colleague to take a look and note their questions about the task so you can discuss them on a call. That makes a better use of your and their time.
  • Before you hit ‘send’, check the time; if it’s outside normal working hours, schedule the send for a more considerate time.


  • Discuss the brief, ideally via a video call (email just doesn’t cut it; you’ll both be exchanging Qs and As for days).
  • Provide the context for the task – where it fits in to the bigger team / organisational picture. Be explicit about the output that’s needed. Wherever possible, show – don’t tell. You may need to do a demo or at least a screen share.
  • Go through your colleague’s questions and any concerns they may have.
  • Clarify when and how you’ll be involved; get those catch-ups in the diary. If other colleagues need to be involved, discuss and agree how and when that will happen.

Getting the job done

  • Check in – virtually, via chat or a call – when you said you would. Discuss progress, quality and timings.
  • Monitor without meddling: if they’re making good progress, say so; if they’re evidently struggling, coach them to help them figure out what to do next.
  • Ask what they need from you.
  • As the job gets completed, thank your colleague and set a date for a brief (yet essential) conversation to review.


  • Soon after the job is completed, encourage your colleague to reflect on what went well with the delegated task on a video call.
  • Review what might have not gone so well. Give feedback.
  • Elicit the lessons learned and suggestions for improvements and/or different ways to get the task done.

You may find these posts useful: ‘What can you do if someone’s work isn’t good enough?’ and ‘Why your FD want you to delegate more’


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’


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