Deciding What To Delegate
Delegation does not mean dumping your to-do items on someone else’s plate or punting tedious tasks just because you’re the boss and you can. There are many methods for deciding what should be delegated, most are inward focused, and based on things that mainly benefit the delegator, and not the delegatee. They consider things like the passion level the delegator has for certain things, the productivity it will give them, or the perceived competence level of the delegatee. If you want to be a true servant transformational leader, or already consider yourself to be one… then I don’t need to tell you this one-sided outlook is wrong. The level of “competence” the delegatee may have really gets me worked up. In my opinion, it’s used as a self-serving smoke screen more often than it is a means to evaluate probability of success based on capability. Should competence level be considered? Sure, but not a decision factor. Some would argue that you could be setting someone up for failure if they lack the capability…well I agree, but that is true even if they have it. If I had to break it down… this is how I see it:Big picture – 60% is on you, 40% is on them. We know, that failure provides the best learning opportunities, but it also a great aptitude check. If you focus too much on capability, you will lose the opportunity to push people out of complacency and challenge their boundaries. How they respond, correct their mistakes, and takeaway learnings are all testaments of their aptitude. Plus, don’t forget, while they are accountable directly to you for the outcome – you are still accountable from all other perspectives. Yes, this means you fall on the sword if it’s a disaster but also accredit successes and accolades to them. If the thought of eating crow for someone else’s mistakes or giving up hard-earned success makes you moan and groan, then don’t be a leader – it’s as simple as that.
Like everything, there is a balance and it’s up to you to find that balance. I’m a visual person, so I rely on decision matrices. 😀 Here is one I use as a quick sense check if the decision to delegate is less than obvious:
How To Delegate…
With empowerment first. If your standard approach is to toss it over the fence like a hot potato, give them a few tips before pushing them out of the nest, or perhaps you hold their hand at every step removing every obstacle as an enabler… this 5-step guide is for you.
To avoid misinterpretation, there are a full bullets here that warrant a bit of color:
You’ve got their back- this simply means they know you are still there. Like a spotter at the gym.
Asking for help- OR you’ve observed they are struggling or stuck after 3 attempts, this is when you pivot to enabling.
- Set an expectation with yourself to keep your reactions in check: you are only enabling for progress, which may or may not be the same as enabling for success depending on where things are. This could be as simple as providing an idea or tool to enable their progress – or as involved as joining a meeting series to remove a roadblock or reestablish authority.
Coaching- only give coaching opportunities if you’re already in enabling mode, but do not disrupt the delegates progress in mid-flight.
- This is counterintuitive. It’s like the athletic director giving the coach feedback when the bases are loaded in the bottom of the 9th and there’s a state championship game on the line. The coach just wants to turn around and say, where were you all week at practice, or for the last 5 games in this series?!?! I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you, so you know what it feels like.
Resisting the temptation to swoop in- don’t under-estimate the power of this temptation, especially if you’re in enabling mode.
- Think of swooping in as a hostile takeover, a hovering helicopter mom or a crazy micro-manager. Do not do it.
- When you feel the urge, just stop, step outside of the frame and see the bigger picture. If the risk factors have not changed, and are still manageable, then just let it ride. If you’re delegating the right things, the true need to swoop in should be a very rare occasion – just trust your instincts!
When it all comes together!
Transforming your delegation approach will create focus, yield results and bring success in more than one way! Just try it! If you are not a manager of people, bookmark this topic and revisit it after I publish Leading Without Authority! 😉