Announcement: This Wednesday, August 11, 2010 I’m reviewing “Awesomely Simple” and the author John Spence is giving away three signed copies.
Last week I began the process of delegating an internal marketing project. We’re planning the visit of an author to the nonprofit I lead. Here’s how the delegation process goes.
First, delegate vision not tasks. Tasks are important. However, tasks without vision are lifeless burdens. Focus on what not how. George Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
In addition, never fuel passion for a project with words like, “It won’t take much work,” or some other minimizing comment. People aren’t passionate about things that don’t matter. Warren Bennis explains, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.”
Second, at the end of the delegation process, agree on milestones and a deadline. Nothing fuels vitality like a deadline to complete a worthwhile project.
Third, leave the door open for ongoing feedback, input, and support.
Fourth, throughout the process, persistently express confidence in the person’s ability to exceed expectations and then let them go within the agreed upon framework. Frank Flores explains, “Give up control even if it means the employees have to make some mistakes.”
Finally, remember you can delegate authority to fulfill vision but leaders never delegate responsibility. The buck stops with you.
In my opinion, one of the greatest success-bottlenecks is leadership’s inability to successfully delegate.
How do you handle the delegation process?
What delegating tips and techniques can you suggest?
“Delegation is letting other people do things you yourself are much better at…. “.
So delegation does also mean accepting that the work will be done in a different way than you would do it. If you cannot accept that: then don’t delegate.
I hear what you are saying on letting others do what you are much better at. Unwillingness to do that is one reason leaders and managers are overworked.
“accepting that work will be done in a different way.” Bingo!
The best delegation thought I know is, the less you do the more you get done.
Delighted to see you again. Thanks for adding value.
How I delegate is in part determined by the person to whom I am delegating. For my most trusted and experienced people I’ll say, “Here’s what we need to accomplish and here’s the deadline. Let me know when it’s finished.” To others I’ll say, “Here’s what we need accomplished. Keep me in the loop.” To folks that are new to me I’ll say, “Here’s what we need to have accomplished. Let’s touch bases for a few minutes each week to discuss the progress.”
I do not tell them HOW to do it, I only ask that the process they follow honors our institutional values.
Thanks for your comments. I see you’ve rightly added a contextual side to the discussion. Great observation.
Thanks for taking the time to give back to the community.
Best to you,
Third and a half….celebrate, recognize and acknowledge the achievements, the deadlines met, the victories, the baby steps, as they all point to the vision.
One could even make a commitment during the second step of delegating to have a ‘special’ celebration at the achievement of a significant milestone.
Wonderful… how could I forget to add that important component of motivation and morale.
I’m celebrating your addition to the discussion.
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Dan, you’re right on about creating a desire in others to want to help.
Otherwise it creates a leader who feels “It will be faster if I do this myself?” instead of delegating.
As I see it, one of the biggest reasons leaders fail to delegate – they believe it takes more time to explain than take action themselves.
To me, this gets to the core of the United States leadership problem “lead from the front” becomes “do it myself”.
It’s not leading if no one is helping.
This is the acid test of a manager becoming a leader, to slow down to the speed of others and allow them the space and time to do it themselves.
Thanks for jumping in. As I read your comment it made me think about another delegating principle that may reflect what you’ve added.
If the task/project is a once and done in some cases it may be most efficient to do it yourself. Of course their are other factors like staff development when others learn how to do what you can do. However, if the task is repetitive, delegate.
I can think of exceptions to this principle but in general it is useful. Your comment made me think of it.
Delegation is crucial to effective leadership. I’m glad you’re addressing it Dan (and a great job doing so, I might add).
I’ve operated on the concept of the 5 levels of delegation. Here’s a link to a resource that addresses this way of looking at the topic:
So glad to see you again. 🙂
Thanks for leaving a useful link. It adds other detentions and insight to this discussion.
Dan – thanks for the post, I’ve been reading and this is my first post, as always this is a very thought provoking post. And I have to ask myself – where would I be, if supervisors, leaders, managers didn’t “delegate” to me or someone like myself. Delegation is a genuine learning action for myself – thanks for the insights and this post especially!
Thanks for your kind words and for leaving your first comment. I appreciate your perspective.
I love how you remind everyone that delegating is a staff development activity. What a great addition. As I work through the delegation process that inspired this post, I’m keeping what you said in mind.
Best to you,
Dan, this is an illuminating post on a difficult and common issue. I am not currently supervising, but when I was, I often felt that I was “dumping.” I easily got off track (and ended up doing things myself), awash in a mental mish-mash of “I need to prove I am willing to do this kind of work myself” and “if so and so is delegated this work, they will feel valued and will step up to the task.”
This also parallels my experience as an extra with our FSU Film School. One of the film students wrote once, in a list of “critical elements to the success of a film,” that “extras need to have direction.” I wholeheartedly agree, having had experience where a Director gave vague instructions and then, when the scene didn’t play out as he wanted, said, “they call it acting for a reason, you know.” If we don’t communicate clearly when we delegate, we will have people eagerly doing what they “think” we want, leaving us results that may not match up with our vision.
Thank you for the good word and for bringing your own reluctance to delegate into the discussion.
I love how your comment reveals the challenge and then explains the value of giving clear direction. Your comment goes in full circle from problem to solution.
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Leaders believe in the deligation of power and vision with reason and logic , assessing the true potential of the people and deligate them with mandate to execute the task ahead reduce the burden of the leaeder , this way he manage to accompolish more and more task wih less time , Delegation empower the people to think independently and critically without fear of reprimend and brickbat.deligation imbibe and enhance the confidence of the people/employee in the leader in true sense , I believe the deligation of power create a accomodative and right ambiance to work , I as leader I deligate my task to my juniors/employee and guide them to
achive more and more , this way my task is cut and I get more result.
Leaders who believe in the deligation are always open to critism and open to accept the challange in right spirit.
It is more important to deligate the work than to do it individually and independently.
You’ve said a lot.
This is one thing I’m taking from your useful comment. If I want to liver bigger than myself I must delegate. Refusing to delegate limits my potential and limits me to the realm of personal attainment.
Thanks for adding value…
Best to you,
Great post! I agree that it is important for people to see the big picture when delegating more specific tasks to them. Motivation is enhanced when people understand how their piece fits into the bigger puzzle.
Thanks for your affirmation and also for adding the idea that effective delegation includes explaining the bigger picture.
Do come back in the future.
How do you get a free copy of the book?
Show up this Wednesday for the details on winning the book… thanks
I think I disagree with your final note. Good leaders delegate responsibility for success…just not failure.
Beautifully written Dan.
Never tell people what to do. Simply put, people don’t like it. You’re not helping them to grow!
Rather, offer them the resources that will enable them to complete their task. I find this method of delegation works very well. As I delegate, I show them the array of resources they have (people, programmes, studios etc) and most importantly…I offer myself as a resource.
I explain that my door is always open (quite literally in fact, as we work in an open plan office) and that I’m on hand to help them with anything they need. But I always them them lead the project and take control, using me as they would a resource. This leads them to feel self empowered and they learn as they work.
Your comment motivates me and I don’t personally know you and I don’t work for you!
“Never tell people what to do.” Straight, clear, and powerful.
You’ve gently challenged and added value to all of us.
Best to you,
Delegation is one of the most effective leadership quality. Its effectiveness depends upon type of authority. Competent authority delegates effectively and incompetencies with authority delegates ineffectively. So, competence with authority serves the very purpose of effective delegation. The base of effective delegation is leadership trust and belief in the system. Culture often plays the major role. Authentic leaders are effective in delegation and leaders with masks are ineffective in delegation. So, competencies and courage with honesty, transparency and acountability are crucial for effective leadership delegation. In the organisations, delegation enhances performance where trust and belief is rampant at all level in hierarchy. Delegation also minimise politics and blame culture as it encourage competence and discourages incompetence. The classic example of delegation is Ratan Tata, Chairaman of Tata Group. He is looking for successor who is neither anti parsi nor pro parsi but he should be a right person. This belief automatically shows the trasparency and vision of Tata Group Chairman. So, delegation has vision and goal and focuses on overall growth and development of people, organisation and society.
Great post on a topic with which I’ve struggled some with a new direct report. Initially, I don’t know if I agree with your lead comment “delegate vision, not tasks,” and the way I internalized that comment was delegating “objectives” instead of vision. I definitely agree on not delegating tasks, and I believe it’s the leader’s mandate to develop the shared vision that will obtain discretionary effort from teammates.
Yesterday, it finally clicked with my colleague, and the key was first establishing the vision for her role on our team. I shared the vision as it struck me, saw her eyes light up and her head nodding, and got confirmation that she liked the vision I had described. That vision set the context for why the objective I set for her was critical to our team’s success. Hoping we’re now off and running with this new colleague….
Thanks for leaving your first comment on Leadership Freak. Your real world experience enriches us all.
Don’t you love to see the lights come on! Ka Ching.
I’m not sure if we agree on the lead statement either however, it sure looks like we agree on the broader concepts.
Thanks for sharing your story. I do hope you come back soon.
Best to you,
Vision needs to be shared and never delegated. Similarly, the tasks are to be delegated with trust and needed authority.
Successful delegation helps people to get developed and contribute to the victory what a leader always aims for. It is a good technique to concentrate on strategic/bigger issues and leaving the routine tasks to be done by way of effective delegation. A good leader never shy away from taking a blame for any failures by the team but shall give full credit to those who accomplish the tasks successfully within stipulated time-frame.
Leaders achieve the glory by sharing the responsibilities and delegation is the only way they work on building strong teams.
Delegation is one of the most effective leadership quality. Its effectiveness depends upon type of authority. Competent authority delegates effectively and incompetencies with authority delegates ineffectively. So, competence with authority serves the very purpose of effective delegation. The base of effective delegation is leadership trust and belief in the system. Culture often plays the major role. Authentic leaders are effective in delegation and leaders with masks are ineffective in delegation. So, competencies and courage with honesty, transparency and acountability are crucial for effective leadership delegation. In the organisations, delegation enhances performance where trust and belief is rampant at all level in hierarchy. Delegation also minimise politics and blame culture as it encourage competence and discourages incompetence. The classic example of delegation is Ratan Tata, Chairaman of Tata Group. He is looking for successor who is neither anti parsi nor pro parsi but he should be a right person. This belief automatically shows the trasparency and vision of Tata Group Chairman. So, delegation has vision and goal and focuses on overall growth and development of people, organisation and society without biasness.