Delegation for Leaders

Back in 2005, when Pope John Paul II was dying, the Reuters headline said: "Sick Pope Delegates Nearly All Easter Duties to Aides." He could rest easy because his staffers were fully prepared to step in and perform all the required duties associated with the high holy days.

How about you? Are you comfortable delegating? If you are an executive, you'd better be. Here's why:

1. Delegation is a time management practice that lets you get tasks off your plate so that you can make time to do other things. What things? Things of high value to you and your business. Things like meeting with customers. Meeting with investors. Meeting with thought leaders. And thinking about the future.

2. Delegation is a people development practice that challenges and expands your staff, thrusting them into their discomfort zone, prompting them to learn new skills, and causing them to discover more of what they are capable of doing.

3. Delegation is the pathway to succession by incrementally building the capacity in your staff to step into your shoes someday. Just as the pope did.

So how do you do it? The process can be broken down into four steps:

- Identify the tasks to delegate. What tasks can you delegate? Much more than you might think. If the task must be done by You personally, it's yours. Other than that, it's potentially delegatable.

- Identify the person best suited to the task. Who should you delegate the task to? Ask yourself questions such as, Does this person have the skills, the interest, the time for this task?

- Delegate the task to the person. How do you hand off the task to the person you've selected? In a word, communication. Meet with the person to go over the task you want to delegate.

- Follow up and assess. Delegation is not abdication. Rather, follow up and see how the person is doing. Step in and help as needed. Evaluate the success, or failure, of the delegation and learn from it.

Simple yes. But easy? No. The process can break down at any step. Why does delegation go off the rails sometimes? There are many reasons, but often the root cause is with You:

~ You like doing the task. So why should you give it up?

~ You want the task done "right" (i.e., the way You do it...and no one else does it like you do).

~ You won't delegate something to a member of your team that you haven't first done yourself.

~ You won't let go.

While these reasons are understandable, they are not sustainable. Staying in your comfort zone isn't leadership. Holding on to your (in)security blanket, isn't leadership. Not developing the people that work for you is starving the capability your business needs to innovate and compete. If you stay this course, it can kill your company.

The bottom line is, You cannot do it all yourself. Delegation is a must.

Yes, there is risk associated with delegation. Letting go means trusting.

What's keeping you from delegating?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday February 25, 2011. If you'd like some help with delegation or other aspects of management, contact Terry and invite him to your organization.


Great post! Two quick points:

1. I like to stress when training delegation skills that when you delegate you are handing over authority to act. The individual taking on new tasks needs to be comfortable with accepting that authority. Authority is of course the thing we like to hold on to. You are not when you delegate handing over responsibility which always remains with the person delegating. For most it is the responsibility that they want get away from.

2. For any delegation to be successful the person delegating must ensure that the receiver of a task is competent (has the knowledge and skills) to perform the task. I don't know what your experience with this is however I have often seen this part of the process neglected or even avoided.

Your statement "delegation is not abdication" is the crux of the matter and unfortunately this is often (in day to day work) what actually occurs.

Once again great article.

Ric (Townsend)
Mistral Papers said…
Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article with us.
Marg Online said…
Delegation must be properly used. A task must not be delegated by wish. There must be a valid reason for the same.
Leadership Training in Bangalore | Communication Skills Training in Bangalore

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