Delegation Exercise: It’s Not Good Enough

Delegation Exercise: It’s Not Good Enough


This is a quick exercise on delegating, designed to demonstrate a key point to participants. It is very easy to run, and its success mainly depends on your execution. Consider rehearsing this so that it can be delivered smoothly.

It is ideal for courses where you are teaching how to lead people or a team. The aim of the exercise is to highlight the importance of providing specific details rather than having unrealistic expectations. People perform much better when they know what is expected of them. This exercise, or demo, helps to instil the importance of this concept which you can deliver with your performance. Make it dramatic and memorable to help delegates remember it in the future.

It is ideal for courses on teambuilding, leadership, delegation skills, team work and similar.


Learn that you cannot expect high performance from people you delegate to without sharing how you measure their performance.

What You Need

  • It works best when you have a large group.


  • This exercise can be run by a tutor in a class, or a manager in the context of work.
  • Pick a person in a team whose birthday is today, yesterday or tomorrow. If you cannot find anyone, pick a person whose birthday is the closest.
  • Ask the group to sing a happy birthday song.
  • Expect the group to automatically do this.
  • Now, say, “Ok good, now sing it better!” Say this with a tone as if you are not pleased. Look serious.
  • Expect that people remain silent and a bit confused on what to do.
  • Lead them to a discussion and elaborate to make sure they get the point of the exercise.


Explaining the Exercise: 2 minutes

Activity: 2 minutes

Group Feedback: 2 minutes


The moral of the story is that if you don’t provide specifics you cannot expect an ideal performance. If people don’t know what they are measured against, you cannot just ask them (or bully them) to perform better just by your sheer willpower, charisma or self-style leadership. Without any specifics, you can be sure that there will be confusion.

Unfortunately, despite sounding obvious, many people who are in a leading role fall into this trap. They think they should act like a boss, order people around, and expect top notch performance. May be all they need to do is to give a motivational speech as if the team is going to a battle; perhaps the team just needs this to suddenly perform exceptionally well!

This is of course a damaging mentality and this exercise helps to illustrate the point.


Inspired from the great book, “Magic of Thinking book” by David J. Schwartz

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