How to Delegate on the Fly

To get the job done as a leader, you have to delegate.  There’s no other way around it.  Often, we are in a big hurry too.  But if you are moving too fast, you are liable to forget something important.  Today I’ll give you a simple tool you can use so that when you delegate on the fly, you get it right every time.

The Pizza Challenge

Recently I was doing a leadership training session with a youth group.  We were going through a series of leadership challenges.  I’d give the leader a task, and he and his team would have to come up with a plan and execute it within a certain time limit.

We started in the evening, so the first challenge we gave them was to make and serve a dinner meal.   The leader did a good job of breaking the overall challenge into smaller tasks, but he learned a good lesson about delegation in the process.

We were cooking in a hotel suite up on the 5th floor, but the plan was to sit down together and eat at a large table down in the lobby.  It was 15 minutes before dinner had to start.  He picked two teammates and instructed them to, “Go set up the table.”  They scrounged some supplies, then disappeared down the hall.

As it came time to carry the food to the lobby, the leader was running out of people to help.  He looked at me, realizing his mistake and said, sheepishly, “I hope those guys come back.”

In that moment he learned a valuable lesson about the art of delegation:  even if you are in a hurry, you have to take the time to delegate clearly.

The bigger the hurry, the more important that we delegate carefully and clearly. #leadership Click To Tweet

I’ve talked about delegating bigger tasks and projects in another video series which you can link to here and in the notes.  But what we’re talking about right now is how to do it in a time-compressed environment.


When you need to get someone moving on a task, it can help to remember the simple acronym:  TP-TALK.  Each letter stands for something you need to include when you delegate.

Task – T is for Task – This is the “WHAT” – tell them simply what needs to be done.

Purpose – P is for Purpose – This is the “Why” of the task; it’s what you intend to accomplish.  They have to know the WHY so that as conditions change, they have room to make smart decisions about the task that still accomplish the purpose.

Time – The second T is for Time.  This is the “When” it needs to be done.

Assets – A stands for Assets.  If you have some resources or tools that they can use for the job, be sure to point them out.

Limitations – The L is for limitations.  If there are any restrictions you need them to abide by, you want to be sure to mention them as well.

Knowledge/Communication – And finally, the K stands for Knowledge.  As my friend learned, the leader needs to have a way of getting feedback on how things are going, and have a way to communicate if something changes.

Delegating on the Fly

It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t.  Putting it all together, the leader’s directions to the table setting team might have sounded like this:

T – we need the table set in the lobby for all 12 of us
P – so we can all sit down together for dinner
T –  by 6:30.
A – you can use the plates and utensils we have here,
L – make sure we’re equipped for all parts of the meal, like salad and dessert
K – As soon as you are done, come back or text me because I may need your help with something else.

The Takeaway

As a leader, you have to delegate to get the job done.  But life goes a lot better for you if you take the time to delegate thoughtfully.  Using a memory aid like TP-TALK will help you make sure you communicate clearly and don’t forget anything.

For more free video tips and blog posts about leadership, be sure to check out the web site.  And of course if you are watching on YouTube, be sure to like and subscribe so you get the word about new videos as soon as they come out.

Thanks for watching, and good luck on your leadership journey.

Lead On!

This post has been about how to delegate on the fly.  For the full video series on how to delegate, check out the links below:

Part 1:  Delegate or Die!  The Why            

Part 2:  What to Delegate            

Part 3:  How to Delegate 

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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