Go Guilt-Free: Delegating for School Improvement and Happier Staff

Effective principals are good organizers, and good organizers know that delegating their school management tasks creates precious time for the instructional ones.

Topics: Early Career Principals, School Management

“Gimme the ball!” says the star athlete. “Gimme the spotlight!” says the star performer. “Gimme the school!” says the star principal.

Stars can do it all—or so they believe. You’re always the first one looking for ways to lead the team. Delegating isn’t in your DNA.

As it turns out, even DNA can be altered, and now is the time to recognize the line between helping and interfering. Embracing the habit of delegating nourishes the twin imperatives of leading instruction and managing a beehive of activity. Still, there will be twinges of uncertainty as you hand off your duties.

Reflect on these research-backed benefits of delegating, and you’ll add time to your day while shedding the guilt.

  • Improved school climate: Empowering teachers can improve the school climate, and a key element of empowering teachers is delegating tasks to them.
  • Building trust: Your staff want chances to succeed. Giving teachers the autonomy to try new strategies and even risk failure is a hallmark of strong leadership.
  • Professional learning: With each delegated assignment, you are helping staff members grow professionally.
  • Retention: Building trust and cultivating relationships with teachers—key outcomes of delegating—can help retain teachers.
  • A self-managing school: Experienced principals know they’ve succeeded when they return from an absence—say, a capacity-building NAESP conference—and find that the school has run itself. Research concurs, noting that a strong school climate marked by trust, collective efficacy, and academic emphasis can be self-sustaining.
  • Key improvements: Student achievement and teacher satisfaction—the happy outcomes in your school—come, in part, from honing your organizational management skills.
  • Time saver: In schools where principals pledged to spend more time on instructional leadership and the school hired a school administration manager, or SAM, principals spent an average of 58 more minutes a day on instruction-related efforts. Principals with a SAM shortened their time spent daily on office work prep, building management, student supervision, and student discipline.
  • You, only better: Many of the RAND Corporation’s Principal Pipeline initiatives designate delegation as a foundational leadership skill. One district specifies that principals delegate effectively by appreciating the interdependency among levels, subjects, teams, and leaders when making plans; assigning tasks that provide learning experiences and ensure efficient school operations; and involving appropriate members of the school community in decision-making. Another defines delegation succinctly—knowing when to let others lead and holding people accountable for getting things done.

5 Steps to Let It Go

Take these tips from experienced principals who have learned to delegate their time-consuming but non-instructional tasks:

  1. Align delegated tasks with staffers’ skills and goals, framing the task as a way for them to contribute to the school’s positive direction.
  2. Piling on the praise for a job well done is essential, but you can’t be everywhere at once. If you spotted the art teacher doing an amazing job at bus duty but didn’t have time to say anything, use social media, emails, texts, and personal notes to shower the people you love with love.
  3. The high achievers on your staff are just like you: always first to raise their hands. But that makes them susceptible to burnout. Look for others who can do the job, and cultivate their capabilities.
  4. Schedule check-ins for progress reports, but put them in a positive light. Make it clear that you just need an update and want the staffer to be successful.
  5. As you take on new tasks of your own, model a healthy approach by sharing your learning curve and being transparent about your professional growth.