“What can I delegate?” is the wrong question.
Effective delegation increases your potential because it multiplies results.
I frequently hear leaders say, “What can I delegate?” That’s the wrong question and reflects the wrong orientation. It’s better to ask, “What can’t I delegate?” Delegation should be the rule not the exception. Think delegation first.
You can’t delegate core responsibilities. If your job depends on assessing the financial health of your company, never pass that off. If you do, eventually, you may be “passed off.”
Weigh the time it takes to delegate a onetime activity against benefit. If the onetime task is long-term then delegate it. If it’s short-term it may be better to just do it.
Them not you
I’ve also heard, “Delegate what you aren’t good at.” There’s a better option. Make delegation about them not you. What are they good at? What do high potentials want to do? Additionally, delegate tasks that help develop others.
They aren’t as good as me
I’ve heard people say they don’t delegate because no one can do it as good as they can. These people never multiply results.
Others don’t have to do things as good as you. They have to do things good enough. Good enough coupled with a passion to get better takes everyone further.
Always delegate vision before delegating tasks. Vision fuels fires while tasks are just one more thing to do.
What other delegation tips, suggestions, or warnings can you offer leaders?
Hi Dan. I realy like your point about delegating vision (before tasks). That seems so unnatural. Leaders are to drive the vision. But delegating the vision makes others believe in and get excited about that vision too. Tasks are just easier to delegate! 🙂
Thanks for your first comment. I appreciate you taking the time to contribute.
Bingo! – it’s easier to delegate tasks.
Great reminder Dan. The higher a leader is in the organization and the more responibility he/she has, the more he/she must delegate. The key is to delegate NOT abdicate. The leader must be clear on the vision and the direction that is to be followed to get there and then act as navigator for the team. Monitoring, suppporting and communicating with the organization and the team within it are the tasks that always remain a leader’s responsibility. The rest can and often must be delegated effectively if you are going to get a big job done.
Wow, great wisdom in your comment. Love your list of things leaders can’t delegate.
I’m going to remember .. Delegate don’t abdicate.
You always add value.
There is always more to do than there is time. I try to live (and coach others) using 2 key questions:
1) What MUST get done?
2) What can ONLY YOU do?
Most of the time, this separates the wheat from the chaff. And invariably, there is always more chaff than wheat.
Love the coaching questions you raise in this post:
– What can’t I delegate?
– What are they good at?
– What do high potentials want to do?
– What can I delegate that will help develop others?
I’m always thankful to see you’ve joined the conversation.
Your questions are great. Thanks for adding them.
You have my respect,
Kudos Dan to you (and Joan’s echo) about the vision. VISION must come first.
People work differently. Give the same task to two different people and you will likely get two different approaches. There are benefits to this IF they are both working toward the same vision and goal.
When delegation fails, people often think that the person performing the task must have lacked the skill. It is possible. It is also possible that the even the goal was clear and the VISION wasn’t.
Communication is THE skill that fuels or blocks success.
Thanks for your good word. Thanks also for adding your wisdom to the conversation.
As I read your comment I started squirming a bit because you put failure right in my lap! Thats the first place I need to look. Very powerful comment.
Successful delegation is the result of clear alignment with the vision… love it.
All the best,
Kate consistently adds value to the Leadership community. I respect her candor, insights and experience. You can read her bio and see contact information at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/kate-nasser . Kate, thanks for all you do.
What other delegation tips, suggestions, or warnings can you offer leaders?
One frequent challenge to supervisors who delegate and the employees to whom they delegate is the timing of “progress reports” – too often is micromanaging and too seldom can result in a product that is not satisfactory. When our organization transitioned to a new third party administrator, I (in my capactity at the time of managing oversight of customer service) was responsible for scheduling our staff’s time at their location. During the first weeks we basically LIVED there. The third week, I distributed the schedule, copied my supervisor, and got back a cursory “they’re on their own now – we don’t need to babysit them anymore.” That created a difficult situation all around — the TPA wasn’t necessarily prepared for us to pull out abruptly; my staff was confused about what to do, and I found myself ill-prepared to offer an option that might have more middle ground (such as a less intensive schedule for our staff visits). That is partially about communication in addition to delegation, but if he had told me his perception about the need to pull back (or if I had checked in), we could have been more in sync and used our resources more effectively, as well as protected our image.
Thanks again for a great story. I’m taking “communication in addition to delegation” as a key idea you are adding.
Love that you introduced the topic of the timing of progress reports. You’ve included a key success factor… establish milestones and the timing of progress reports.
I’m thankful Paula stops in to share her insights and stories. She generously adds value to the Leadership Freak community and I respect her perspective. Read her bio and contact info at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
Thank you so much Dan, I really needed to hear this…
Ruth, Your welcome! 🙂
Dan, Great points!!!!!! I would like to add two thoughts: 1- I look at delegation as being fruitful; 2- I also try and remember “delegate or drown”. Thanks for doing what you do!!!! Howie
Howie, I love that: “delegate or drown”!
I’m with Scott, well said.
You have a terrific blog. I find that I learn from many of your posts even as a seasoned leader. Delegation is a leadership task that is difficult for many leaders and your provide great insight and guidance. Thanks for sharing.
You encourage me! Thank you for your note.
When you delegate allow those you have delegated to do what you have delegated to them. Too often leaders delegate not only a task, but “how” to do the task.
As far as “delegating vision,” I have to pause with that notion Dan because for me a leader should never “delegate” his or her vision in the sense of giving it up to others. For example, if a leader believes none of his employees should get hurt, then the leader has to “communicate” his or her vision of safety in virtually everything he or she does, including delegating tasks. Through influence and persuasion, the leader must link the delegated task to the vision and how the task will contribute to the success of the business.
Wonderful insight… don’t delegate the how, delegate the what. I’ll add delegate the why too. 🙂
I hear you on don’t delegate vision as in stop taking responsibility for the vision. Your clarification is spot on… Link delegated tasks to the vision.
BTW… I actually prefer.. delegate outcomes to delegate tasks…just got ahead of myself this morning.
I’m thankful for Jim’s participation in the Leadership Freak conversation. His years of experience and wisdom are a great value to me. He generously gives back to the community. His bio and contact info are at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/james-leemann
Another legacy riff…
My reaction to ‘they aren’t as good as me,’ did paint the larger perspective. If you were to suddenly stranded on a deserted island (no cell reception), would your organization continue functioning? If not, why not?
Them, not you….while the vision of the organization may have crystallized on your watch, does not your watch also include a smooth succession of leadership and vision? Is it your job to provide opportunities for those who may lead later, to experience those elements of leadership and be more prepared when their time comes?
Perhaps, modifying Dan’s point of delegate what they are good at and what they can be come good at…ask them if they would pick up the responsibility…not delegate, ask. You may want to indicate why you are asking, because of the potential strength you see in that person. (You have to be genuine in this.) When you pass along that opportunity/ responsibility, others often see more clearly what you see in them and that is a win-win. By asking, beyond the servant-leader perspective, you set a respectful standard within the organization so that no one feels they are getting ‘dumped on’.
Props to Howie’s ‘delegate or drown’ comment, too true. Given the increasing volume of information and connections, it is no longer a one-person show. Maybe go with ‘engage others or drown’.
Yet another great subject Dan!!
Love seeing you here and love what you add to the conversation. YOu said so much useful stuff in every paragraph.
In particular, I was struck by the idea of “ask if they would pick up the responsibility” Super.
BTW…I’m alway glad to read your “modifications.”
All the best,
Doc is another great friend of Leadership Freak and generously adds value to the conversation. His experiences fuel his insights. I’m thankful for his participation. Read his bio and contact info at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
Doc, I also love the idea of “asking” instead of “telling.” I imagine many enterprises have situations where that would be perfect — and the dynamic would be so changed by the fact that the volunteer chose to do the job rather than being directed to do it.
I agree to your point that leader should know “what can’t be delegated.” and the area where leader is the best, can not be delegated. Delegation needs correct matching in terms of capability, competency and potential. So, the bigger issue in delegation is “who to delegate?” And what afterwards when you have delegated? Post delegation monitoring and feed back is more important than simply delegation. I like your point that vision should be delegated. Each and every person should be aware about the vision of the organization. Not only awareness but they should own it, feel it, and visualize it.
There has to be commitment in delegation. Without commitment delegation is worthless and produces negative multiplier outcome. But how do you come to know whether person delegated is committed or not? This is leadership challenge and unless people are motivated and have good morale, delegation will not turn into effective delegation and excellent performance. So, creating cultural trust and people cohesion pre-delegation is the most important factors that decide positive multiplier result.
However, sometimes I think different. When people capability and competency does not match with delegated task then what to do? I think, leader should also delegate task that might not be capable at that time but have potentials to do it. Leaders should provide them proper resources, tools and training and the most important is to provide them moral support. Create trust in them.
Leaders should not delegate sensitive tasks that need secrecy. Any task that involves leakage of important information or data should not be delegated. Effective Delegation reduces waste of time, resources and employee turn over and increases loyalty, commitment, motivation and performance. Delegation is like “ whole is more than the sum of its parts”.
I love the way you combine words like … “matching capability, competency, and potential.”
Regarding delegate to people who aren’t completely ready… I agree 100%! I’ve heard it said that leaders should delegate to a high potential person who is 70 to 80% ready. Give them something that stretches them but doesn’t discourage them. I’ll add that the less ready a person is the more responsibility we have to help them succeed.
You always add to the Leadership Freak conversation.
Ajay regularly gives back to the Leadership Freak community. He is a teacher with broad leadership experience. I’m thankful he participates in our discussions. You can read about Ajay at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
As usual another great post. I also appreciate all of the comments some obviously unforgettable, “Delegate or Drown” “Engage others or Drown.” I find myself delegating more everyday and standing back as the “invisible safety net” if help is “requested” but never proffered! I believe one of the most important qualities that a leader brings to the world of delegating is matching the “outcome” ( I like your term Dan) to the individual/s. I also agree that strethching the envelope is a worthwhile endeavor so if your team member is 70-80% ready let the catapult go. A lot of times I have been pleasantly surprised at just “How Far” the ball will fly and in no instance has there not been a lesson learned regardless of failure or success or the all important “in between,” everything gets credit in my book and there are never any losers. This sense of freedom and healthy notion of “no fear” propels team members to do their best. I really liked Doc’s analogy with the deserted island approach and hope that everyone has their own “Mr. Wilson.” Regards, Al
Dan, when I first read your post, I was a bit confused by “delegate vision before tasks.” I wasn’t sure what you meant or if I agreed. However, Jim’s and your follow-up comments helped to clarify where you were coming from. I appreciate your post today as this is an area I am learning to apply growth to in a few different directions. And an area I’m oddly helping others with as well. Isn’t it interesting that sometimes we find ourselves helping others with areas we need help with ourselves?
Someone recently told me, “I really want help, but am not sure what I would delegate. And I’m afraid because my expectations are high and people often let me down.” Perhaps the approach of “sharing the vision” instead of “sharing the task” would help with this exactly. Because after all, people cannot fulfill a vision they don’t share, know or understand.
I can attest that every time I fill a custom order, I have to work hard to extract the customer’s vision so they can be happy with the end result. Customer’s do not often readily understand that I need them to share their vision with me, or that they even need a vision for a final product they are hiring me to design. In that scenario, they are the leader of the project I must create. If all I do is do the task for them (create the design), it will surely be unlike what they expect, because without their vision, I only have mine. So I can apply your principle easily there as well.
Love the way you use images on this site.
A picture is worth 1000 words… (and I say that as a professional wordsmith!)
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