Delegation for Hospitality Leaders

Avoid burnout and master the skill that is the building block of a sustainable career.

We get it, you’re in hospitality. You work hard. It’s just what we do.

And it’s because we work so hard and because we’re good at our jobs, that we get promoted. We’re promoted into positions of responsibility and we are suddenly in charge of other people.

Along the way, we’ve learnt that a good work ethic is rewarded and so we continue to do what has worked for us so well in the past. As we move up into management positions we accept more responsibility, and the workload builds up. We take on more… and more… and more and try to do everything ourselves. The days aren’t long enough to get through everything and so we spend extra time, outside our rostered hours, catching up.

Suddenly it’s been months since we’ve had two days off in a row or worked less than 50 hours a week.

This is a story that is all too familiar for emerging leaders in hospitality and it’s simply not sustainable. Doing everything ourselves can only take us so far and it will eventually catch up with us. Physical and mental exhaustion inevitably ensue, burnout occurs, and great hospitality staff abandon the industry.

As leaders in the hospitality space, I believe that it is our responsibility to positively impact the sustainability of the industry. This starts by setting good standards in our own work lives and demonstrating to our existing teams (who are watching everything we do… trust me), that a career in hospitality can be a successful, sustainable and fulfilling one.

What we often forget, is that when we become a leader, success is no longer defined by how well we do things. Instead, it’s all about how we help our team achieve greatness. This transition, from being the doer; the person completing the tasks on the ground level; to the orchestrator: the one leading the collective group to ensure everything gets done, is possibly the most difficult element of becoming a leader. It’s also the part of the job that most first-time leaders struggle with. You’re not alone.

Delegation is the key.

Why we DON’T delegate.

The first step to getting better at delegation is understanding why we don’t already do it. There are a number of common blockers that inhibit our ability to delegate. “It’s quicker and easier to do it myself”, “No-one else will do it properly”, “I don’t want anyone to think I’m lazy.” Sound familiar?

On top of these, it feels good to talk about how busy we are. Admit it. We half complain, half boast about “all the hours” we are doing and feel good knowing that, with all the work we do, the business could not operate without us.

In Leadership Training sessions at VP Training & Development, we often workshop the characteristics that make a good leader. We hear things like patient, knowledgeable, approachable and consistent. You know what no one EVER says? ‘Busy.’

A good leader delegates.

Why we SHOULD delegate.

Sure, as the Restaurant Manager, when you set the tables in the restaurant, the task is done quickly and to perfection. You’ve developed an acute attention to detail, you like making sure the restaurant looks amazing and, you’ve set it so many times that you could do it with your eyes closed. But is setting the restaurant the BEST use of your time? Probably not. And will your team ever get better if you don’t give them the chance to do it again and again, just like you did? No. Sharing the workload and giving your team members a chance to have a go, organically produces a more confident and capable team.

In his book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek talks about the Circle of Safety, a supreme state in which a team can present a unified front and face threats from the outside together, instead of worrying about internal dangers.

For the Circle of Safety to exist, all individuals on the team need to feel four things: safe, valued, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. When you delegate a task to a team member and support them through the process, you are demonstrating your trust in their abilities and sending them a clear message, “I believe in you and I want you to succeed.” It demonstrates to them that their job is secure (safe), that you welcome their input (valued), that they are integral to the success of the business (purpose) and that they are an important member of the team (belonging). Delegating helps to establish the Circle of Safety and develops a culture of trust and respect amongst your team.

The favourable outcomes of delegation don’t end with team training and engagement. Imagine all the things you could do if you were using your time more effectively! You could plan that staff incentive program, find a better price for that product, or leave work on time for a change. Crazy huh? You could tackle all those important jobs that are on the backburner because you’re so caught up doing things that, when you really think about it, you could be delegating to someone else.

Delegation allows you to prioritise your tasks, increase productivity across the board and GET. STUFF. DONE.


The WHO, WHAT and HOW of Delegation.

Convinced that delegation is the way of your future? Great! Here are some tips to making sure you delegate effectively.

1. Choose the right people to delegate to.

Try to match the task to the strengths, interests and knowledge of the people you are delegating to. Sometimes this may not be possible. Sometimes the gum needs to be scraped off the bottom of chairs and there’s only one person rostered on that shift. It’s going to be them. However, where it is possible, establishing who the best person to delegate to will not only increase productivity but also increase the engagement levels of your team. If someone has an interest in music, give THEM the task of creating a new playlist for the restaurant. If someone is particular good at training, buddy THEM up with the new staff member. Whatever it is, put some thought into who the best person to complete this task is.

Personality profiling can help with this too. At VPTD, we work with the DISC assessment, an incredibly useful tool in identifying personality types. When you know someone’s strengths, their fears and their motivations, it becomes easier to recognise which tasks they will enjoy and be able to do well.

2. Identify what you can and can’t delegate.

Delegation is not simply dumping your most unpleasant or mind-numbing tasks onto someone else. They’ll see straight through that and things will surely come unstuck. But that also doesn’t mean you have to do all the garbage tasks all the time. Clean out the storeroom once every few months and people will see that you’re not afraid of putting in the hard work or getting your hands dirty. Then, they won’t mind when you ask them to do it next time.

In your role, you may be expected to master certain tasks before you can delegate them. There may also be tasks that are yours alone and may not be delegated. Ever. When considering which tasks to delegate, refer to your Position Description. If in doubt, check with your direct manager.

3. Be prepared to invest time and energy.

Delegating will take work off your plate in the long run, but you must be prepared to invest time and energy at the beginning. Be patient as your team learn your expectations and believe that things will get easier. They might not grasp exactly what you’re saying the first time around, they may put in a good effort but fall short. Don’t use this as an excuse to take responsibility back. Use it as a learning tool to recognise where the process went wrong and how it can be improved.

Let me also add and be crystal clear… Delegation is NOT abdication. Give support to ensure their success.

4. Ensure open, clear communication.

Communication is absolutely crucial to ensuring that the tasks you delegate will be done well. From the very beginning, be up-front about your expectations. Don’t assume ANYTHING. Don’t rely on what you may consider to be “common sense”. Communicate exactly what you want done. If you want the task done a particular way, detail that process to them from the start. Give them all the information they need to achieve the results you want. Write it down or draw a picture if you have to. The more direction you give, the more opportunity they will have to do it right.

Ensure that the team member understands the importance of doing the job well and to the standard you expect. You can get them to repeat back to you what they need to do. Give them a time frame or even better, ask them to set their own time frame. Confirm they are committed to the expected results and that their overall goals for the task are aligned with yours.

5. Say thank you.

People want to hear it. They do. They want to feel appreciated for the job they’re doing. It’s incredibly motivating for your team members and practising gratitude daily has many positive health and wellbeing effects for you.  They’ve just saved you time in your day. Take 3 seconds to say thanks.

VP Training & Development conducts affordable and fun training sessions designed specifically to assist emerging leaders in delegation and time management.

For more information, send an email to

Written by Sara Turnbull, Hospitality Coach, VPTD.