How to Delegate Creative Work Without Making More Work

How to Delegate Creative Work Without Making More Work

June 23, 2014 by

I’ve managed creative people outside of the church world for over 20 years and those insights have been a big help inside the church. Delegating and managing creative people is an important part of my role here at Crossway as communications pastor. But it’s not easy.

The art and science of delegation is one that I have learned in the trenches of actually doing the work and being a part of teams at various levels. This isn’t something that can be taught in a classroom—the only way to learn is through experience. Throughout the years I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. But I think I’ve finally figured out the mechanics of delegation.

I’ve found there are four steps to delegating well. Everyone is at a different stage of their journey as a creative, so you have to figure out where individuals currently are. This impacts the level of delegation you give them.

  1. I do/They watch
    Most of the time I am doing the heavy lifting on a project. They are primarily observing and learning, or picking up the easy bits here and there. I still make all the larger decisions and have the final say.
  2. I do/They help
    They have a voice in the creative and idea or content development. They participate and do some more of the lifting to get the project across the line.
  3. They do/I help
    They now have the chops to lead in their area of competency. I am now just a guide and pitch in to help when I see the need arise. If they can do 70% of what I’m capable of at this level, then I believe they are ready for the next step. At this level it is really important to start off with giving them a very comprehensive creative brief—either verbal or written is fine. But the more in tune with my thinking at the start, the better.
  4. They do/I watch
    I love this stage. They can now do the project on their own. I just need to ensure that deadlines are met and the production parameters are kept.

This methodology of delegation works best if you and your student are in the same creative disciplines. Writers learn best from writers, designers learn best from designers. If you’re managing others with completely different skill sets then these guidelines might not work as well.

What have you seen that works for you in delegating?

Photo by Thomas Hawk.
Post By:

Steve Fogg


Steve serves as the big cheese of communications at his church in Melbourne, Australia; he married way above his pay grade and has three children. Connect with him on his blog or on other social networks.
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7 Responses to “How to Delegate Creative Work Without Making More Work”

  • Andrew Fallows
    June 24, 2014

    I learned a very similar model when I was a student and a member of InterVarsity at RIT. We used this as the basic philosophy of developing new leaders.

    There’s one really critical piece that I think is important to tack onto the end of each of the four steps: “We talk.”

    In IV, we put a lot of emphasis on debriefing, giving people an opportunity to identify what can be improved as well as to celebrate success. At each phase in one’s growth toward leadership, reflection is a major factor in progress. It’s important enough that, even though it often happens anyway, I’d stress it by adding it the description of each phase.


    • Steve Fogg
      June 24, 2014

      Some great additions and insights there Andrew. Yes it is a leadership model that is adaptive for delegation.


  • Bethany
    June 24, 2014

    This is a solid model–very organic. I’d love to read an article about how to encourage church attendees to volunteer. We have a medium-sized congregation, but they seem to be “stuck in their ways” and unwilling to volunteer. The people who volunteer for everything from baking cookies for an event are the same people who lead Bible studies and sing in the choir and help in the nursery. Those people are absolutely wonderful, but stretches our core of volunteers very thin and can be discouraging to the leadership. Any tips?


  • Steve Fogg
    June 24, 2014

    You have to preach it Bethany


  • Andrew Fallows
    June 25, 2014

    Bethany, your comment inspired me to write something I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and I thought I would share it here. It’s much more general than the specific concern of getting people to volunteer, but I think it’s related.

    If you’re interested, you can find it here: http://blog.kaldrenon.com/2014/06/25/turn-it-up/ and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!


  • Eric Dye
    June 27, 2014

    I love this, Steve!



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