Delegating a task vs Delegating a role.

We can’t do it all….despite what we may sometimes think 😉

There are simply too many tasks on a farm to be able to do all of them.

Not only this… but by delegating certain types of tasks, we free ourselves up to focus on using our super power (for me it’s using my lazer beam third eye).

As business owners there are certain roles and tasks on the farm that are best suited to us. There are certain tasks that when we focus on them, we get the largest return in terms of our time and energy. These tend to be big picture, vision, and management level activities.

So how do we best delegate? This starts by being very clear with ourselves about what we are delegating… the distinction to make is between the delegating a task and delegating a role.

Delegating a task:

This is the basic level of delegation. We assign a specific task or set of tasks to someone or to a team. The clearer we are in our instructions, the better.

Specifically we need to be clear about:

  • What done looks like… what is the desired outcome;
  • How long the task is to take;
  • What tools and materials are needed;
  • Details of the techniques involved.

Verbal communication can be tricky, it is almost impossible to be sure that people have heard what you actually said. Taking the time for people to repeat back to you the key elements of the task is a good idea,

Yes…. delegation takes time. Time to clearly communicate, time to issue written directions, time to train them, and time to follow up. Which is why it is great if you can find a way to not only delegate a task, but an entire role.

Delegating a role:

Herein lies the real power of delegation.

When you delegate a role, you free up your mind to focus on those areas of your business that only you can do…. to focus on your role as captain of the ship rather than on operational management.

While details are important when getting someone started in their newly delegated role, the key is to be clear about the desired outcome and purpose of the role. What is that role to achieve, what outcome to you seek, what is the available time frame, what criteria will be used to determine success, and most importantly WHY is this role crucial to the success of the farm (putting the role in context vis a vis the big picture.

Perhaps you might notice how well this maps onto the OPA framework .

Let us consider the delegation of the role of greenhouse manager for a farm growing their own seedlings for field vegetable production:

    • Outcome: To produce healthy thriving seedlings that will be ready for transplanting on schedule (as determined by the field planting schedule). Criteria for success are leaf color, the presence of a rooting system allowing the seedling to be easily pulled from the tray while also not being root bound, healthy, white roots, absence of insect pests or diseases, readable tags in each tray detailing crop type, variety, and seeding date, seedling has been hardened off at least 3 days prior to planting, weekly update on what will be ready to plant this week, seedlings are ready on time for planting as planting in the transplanting calendar


  • Purpose (how does this role fit into the big picture): Healthy seedlings are the foundation for a productive transplanted crop, seedling vigour and health directly determines how well the seedling will adapt to field conditions and how fast it will grow, vigorous seedlings give us a head start on weeds and insect and contribute to growing healthy, profitable crops… healthy profitable crops allow this farm to thrive, to pay the employees and provide high quality nourishing food to the community we serve.
  • Action: Here is where you guide the person to get started in this role. What are the current best practices/standard operating procedures, intro to the greenhouse seeding calendar, how to document improvements in the system, tools and materials needed.


The idea here is that you are getting them off to a good start… you check back in to support them to fully appropriate the role… and then you let them do it!

Resist the urge to ‘micro manage’!

You must trust them and, yes, you must accept that there is a learning curve. Schedule regular meetings with your management staff to support them in achieving success. Everyone wants to succeed, your role is to set them up for a win and them let them run with the ball.


What is your superpower? What is your unique ability in your farm business? Where does your time and energy produce the greatest return? How can you better focus your attention on the big picture… on being the captain of the ship?

What tasks can you delegate?

What roles can you delegate?

Let me give you a hint, it’s more than most farmers usually admit 😉

I suggest you make a list with three columns:

  1. My super powers/unique abilities
  2. Easily delegatable
  3. Harder to delegate.

Now… what role are you willing to delegate this week? Is there anywhere on the farm that you need to be more clear regarding something you have delegated?

Have fun! (seriously, the fun factor is so important!)


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