The less You do the More you get Done
Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good (people) to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
There comes a point when doing more gets less done, when adding work doesn’t enhance your career it hinders it.
Successful leaders learn the less they do the more they get done. Completing projects and tasks takes you up the ladder. Delegating keeps you there.
5 Delegating principles:
- Delegate tasks – retain responsibility.
- Begin with end results. Define success not the steps to get there. General Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
- When its relevant, explain meaning and purpose. Answer questions like: Who are we making happy? How will they be happy? Why are we making them happy? If your projects aren’t making someone happy, it’s likely you’re misdirected and ineffective.
- Always agree on deliverables and deadlines. Deadlines create urgency and relieve uncertainty. An assigned task without a deadline is an option.
- Delegate authority; authorize qualified people to make decisions.
4 Reasons you don’t delegate:
- You have a trust issue. Chances are fear drives your life.
- You have a glory issue; you want it for yourself.
- You have a training issue; you aren’t equipping your people.
- You have a hiring/firing issue; you have the wrong people.
What are the challenges of delegating?
What are the key factors for successful delegating practices?
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Hah – Dan, I think you’re looking over my shoulder this week. I was just sitting here looking at a new project file wondering why I had it assigned to me rather than someone else. I concluded it was a lack of trust in the other people who could do it, combined with a touch of arrogance that no-one knows as well as I do how to handle it. Bottom line, more work for me and more delays for the projects already on my desk. Stupid!
To answer your question about keys to delegating, part of your point on training is you have to give people a safe place to fail. In other words, be able to catch it and have time/resources to correct it if it happens, but give them the freedom to noodle through it. People learn from failure too, and learning people always fail along the way. If you have zero-tolerance for failure, you’ll never be able to delegate because even when you do people will check in with you every step of the way, and will never make a decision for themselves. They’ll never develop good judgment.
Thank you for clear powerful insights. Sometimes being smart makes us stupid. 😉 I find I’m too eager to help and if I’m not careful, reverse delegation is the result…. doh!
Love the “space for failure” idea and couldn’t agree more. Letting people struggle and sometimes fail (as long as it isn’t too costly) is a sign you respect them.
It’s a pleasure reading your comment.
Great post Dan. There is a difference in delegating verses dumping. Most of which I think simply has to do with attitude. Some people don’t delegate because they don’t want to take the time to show someone else either how or what needs to be done. They feel it’s quicker for them to just do it. But it robs someone else of the joy of getting off the bench and in the game. Also someone with a micro-manager personality struggles with delegation. Or they struggle with allowing someone the freedom to accomplish the task without having to constantly hold their hand.
Thanks for the good word. Love your contrast between delegating and dumping. Nice.
The problem with the “do it yourself” approach is it works in the short-term. I think thats why it’s so tempting.
Thank you for adding value.
Good post, Dan.
I think the first of these is the most important. While it is important to delegate tasks to bet the work done, it is equally as important to be responsible.
As leaders we are responsible for encouraging and lifting “our” people up, but we are also to take the heat when things don’t go as planned. All too often when the results aren’t good, people want to point fingers at just about anybody. But as the leader of the project, committee, whatever it is..I am the fall-guy, it is my job to take the hit for the team, and work with the team to figure out what to do differently the next time.
And sadly, I don’t think there is a lot to be done about the fame and glory hogs.
Love how you focus responsibility on the people side of leadership. When I wrote this post, I wasn’t thinking of that aspect. Great addition to the conversation. Take responsibility for encouraging and lifting. Average managers manage projects – great managers manage people.
Always a pleasure reading your thoughts…
I think this is a huge issue at many organizations and I think trust is the key. I have never understood people who don’t delegate because they don’t trust their own hiring and training decisions. You will always get a better performance from an employee who is working a new project who has been told I trust your ability to do this work than you will from an employee that knows the work that they are doing is the work you don’t care about and are willing to let go of.
Thanks for jumping into the conversation and focusing on trust. Recently I had to leaders say, “Thanks for trusting me with this project.” Man! thats one of the best things a leader can hear.
Great post, Dan! One of my first thoughts as I was reading this was how hard it was for me to learn the lesson that as a leader, I didn’t always know the best way of how to get things done. Once I got that lesson, I was much more effective in delegating things to people.
One of my other “a-ha” moments came when I realized that I get to adjust how I delegate based on the individual. For example, delegating to a seasoned veteran of a group with a proven track record of delivery will involve less follow up. When I delegate to someone where I haven’t yet built the same level of trust, then I check in a lot more often to find out how s/he is progressing and whether s/he needs any support or direction from me to complete the job. The tricky part is doing this without appearing to be meddlesome.
Thank you for your comment. It’s powerfully practical. You can often tell when you are reading something useful because it feels like you already knew it.
Thanks for adding value by sharing your a-ha moments. Great stuff.
The worse scenario is when you mess up with the real causes of your inability to delegate. You claim it’s for hiring/firing issues, but in all truth it’s your lack of trust that hinders you. That’s where it becomes vital to know yourself before you attempt to straighten up your business life.
You comment reminds me how easy it easy to escape responsibility by blaming others.
I’m thankful you regularly share your insights.
Sometimes the more you do, the more people will let you do. If you are a do it yourself-er it can bite you. People will expect you to jump in if they sit back long enough or if the “do it wrong” because they know you will step in and take over.
We also tend not to “spend the money wasting time on people”. That is a comment I heard at a symposium I attended years ago. Many people think training is a waste of time and money. Sitting in a classroom is not getting the job done. If you are not pushing, pulling, selling, or moving something you are not working. If you have a sink or swim approach to your business or organization you will find early burn out and employee dissatisfaction are rampant. People can only work so long not knowing what is expected of them. They will find a comfortable safe place and stay there.
Spend the money to “waste time” and train people!! Tell them what you expect and you will be able to measure success. You will also be able to identify people you CAN delegate to and have them be successful.
Thanks for another useful comment. Your first sentence really popped for me. Ka Pow! So True.
In recent years I’ve been learning that the future of my organization has less to do with me and more to do with developing others than I ever imagined.
I think the challenges of delegating are self incompetence, belief, personality etc. Person delegating may not be competent enough to delegate, subsequently he may have fear of being exposed. He might have belief that delegation is not good and it may weaken his position and power. It might also strengthen others to learn the tricks of the trade. His personality may be the greatest challenges. He might be autocratic or authentic person, he could be self centric person, etc. Who can change personality and perception.
I think the key factors for successful delegating practices are personality, organisational practices, leadership trust etc. Organisational practices play major role in delegating. Good practices lead to more delegation. Similarly, leadership trust is vital to embrace organisational practices.
The word “fear” came to mind as I read your comment. I can see how fear causes people to keep things close so they can try to maintain control.
Perhaps one of the interesting challenges of delegation is both letting go of control while maintaining control.
Thank you for consistently sharing insights and adding value.
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You inspired my today, Dan. It never occurred to me until I read your post how a leadership “best practice” of delegating can actually hinder a leader’s ability to serve strong. So I pinged back to this post in a post of my own:
Thanks for your constant inspiration!
One needs to keep faith in people while delegating things and their completing the tasks per your expectations. Some may respond very fast while others may require a push. Knowing individuals and their strengths can facilitate the task of delegating easier.
The single deciding factor for successful delegation is motivation. People need good encouragement to get started and shall contribute well once are assured good recognition and rewards.
I read this post early this morning and have been turning it over in my mind all day – trying to think of some angle that is “new” or somehow provides insight. I suppose one key to successful delegation may lie in the motives of the person doing the delegating. I was once speaking with someone who had been under my supervision before moving on to be supervised by one of my peers. We were talking about delegation (the context being that I found it challenging), and she was talking about how much my peer delegated. And then she said, “and I am learning so much.” I suppose the message there is I may have WANTED my employee to learn as much as my peer wanted her to learn, but until I let go of my need to control everything, there would be no opportunities for others to learn.
Recent new hires were given a task and told “here’s what I want you to do and by when.”
They were also told “Ask me anything you want, anytime you need guidance. And if you are uncomfortable taking this on, let me know, there will be no stigma attached as we have plenty of other tasks you could work on.”
The two did wonderfully, asked a lot of questions, and neither one backed out.
I used to be of the “I’d better do this as I can do it faster than anyone else” school. Delegation and allowing relative freedom to those delegated is COOL.
Timely post Dan!
I might pair up…
Retain responsibility, assign accountability
(which may also be delegate authority in a way).
Leadership is responsible, however those doing the true work are accountable for the work. Probably the hardest part for leaders, particularly new leaders is ‘letting go’ once they set things in motion. Letting go can create such a powerful legacy and tightly woven trust lines.
Now, everyone remember Dan’s post from yesterday and go have some fun!
Excellent article, Dan! I would also add in that the Can’t-Delegators may have also had experiences with Delegatees not meeting deadlines, dropping the ball, etc. So you’re right, it is a trust issue… and being aggravated at having to follow up, nag, remind, etc. “I should be able to tell them once and know it’s going to be done” – have heard that twice in the last 2 weeks from clients. Just found your blog – great stuff!
I like your reasons that people don’t delegate! Spot on. Had to read this again as I have got myself in the “I am not getting through it all” mindset.
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Great article. When I first started my career I remembered wanting to take on more work rather than delegating it. I felt the need to do this for quality control and also ownership of the work itself.
Over the years, as I’ve developed my leadership skills, I’ve learned you can much more quickly and effectively scale the business by delegating tasks to an enabled team that has the capability to complete it.
Keep up the great blogging articles!