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Delegating without losing control

Appropriate use of power

Inappropriate use of power or poor delegation can lose commitment from project members and even create resentment or resistance to your goals.

On the other hand, as Project Manager you need to retain control to ensure that the project meets its goals. In fact, Project Managers often feel such a need to retain control that they are uncomfortable with delegating power - it feels as if control is being lost and that unnecessary risk is being introduced to the project.

The trick, therefore, is to delegate without losing control.

Keeping hands-on and hands-off at the same time

You can do this, bearing in mind the levels of power from the previous section:, using the following tactics:

  • Use the minimum power necessary to achieve the desired outcome

  • Use a small amount of power at first, and if that doesn't work then escalate your use of power

  • Do not abuse power - ie: do not use power to achieve a result for which you have no authorisation or is purely for your own personal gain

  • Delegate as much power as practical, starting from the top of the triangle (ie delegate decisions, whilst setting the agenda). A simple example is that you ask other people to make a decision between two choices, but you make sure the two choices are both ones that you are happy with. Eg: if you think something has to be done, you ask: "Would you be able to do this today, or would it have to wait until next week?" not "Would you like to do this?" - the latter question gives them the option of saying 'no'.

  • Have strategic "checkpoints" that tell you how each person is progressing with their work. Take close interest at the checkpoints, but let people get on with their work between them. Eg: if an experienced project member is producing a computer program, you might ask them to meet with you to discuss the outline design, when they have completed it. Don't wait until they have finished writing the program - that's too late to spot anything going wrong. Neither should you get overinvolved, eg: going to meetings with them to investigate detailed requirements - that demonstrates a lack of trust in their ability to do the job.

When you perfect these techniques, you can not only let others make decisions, but also set the agenda - providing you retain control over the environment. You retain control because you delegate the top levels of power, but retain control over the bottom, more powerful levels. However, project members will view your approach as more "hands off", letting them take more responsibility.


How can you make better use of power in your project?

The next article in this online course is:

Project Management Training:
Soft Skills Part 8: Managing Conflicts
Project Management Training: Soft Skills Tools

Project Management Training



Trust and Rapport


Winning Commitment


Using Power



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Group Conflicts

Team Development

Managing Difference


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In/Out Groups

Building the wider team

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©2013 Team Technology. Further articles/resources that may be of interest include: Personality Test, Personality Type Descriptions, Myers Briggs overview, The Basics of Team Building, What Career is Right for Me?, and Career ideas.