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Delegation: A Leadership Strategy
You can't do it alone. Don't
delude yourself that it will be quicker or cheaper if you just take care of it.
Maybe for today, but what will you fail to accomplish that is more important?
Failure to delegate effectively can stall a career, slow business growth, and
allow the narrow windows of opportunity to slam shut before you get to them.
What is your highest value contribution? Which of your activities brings in the
most revenue, profit, or market share? Just because you excel at something
doesn't mean you should do it. It's the old 80/20 rule. Choose your 20%
carefully. Your greatest leverage is in mobilizing your staff or outsourcing
How do you know when to delegate? Here are four questions to ask yourself.
1. Can someone else do it better, faster, or cheaper?
One of my clients was struggling with editing an employee manual while trying to
juggle strategic planning and a new product launch. He's a sometime writer who
has a penchant for reading and editing, as he says, "every last word that goes
out the door." What a waste. A top notch editor could be hired to quickly
complete the task. So could his able assistant. His operation is small but this
sort of nit picking indicates a serious affliction, an inability to let go.
It required a combination of numbers crunching, evaluation of in-house talent,
and serious reflection for him to finally, with clenched teeth, begin
delegating. The numbers were proof that he could save time and money and focus
on more critical priorities. The difficult part was prying his fingers off the
For him it was both an ego and control issue. He wanted to be positive that
everything was "right" and somehow felt he alone knew exactly "how" it should be
2. Can delegating provide time for you to do more important things?
Another great fear, especially of entrepreneurs, is that delegation will make
them redundant. You may have such competent staff that things can run … yes,
without you. Don't abdicate. Leaders need to lead. What is the highest and
greatest personal value you bring to the business?
If you're a startup or one to ten person organization you need to be bringing in
business and growing. Get someone else to design brochures, handle public
relations, or anything else that robs valuable marketing and sales time. (Unless
of course one of the aforementioned is your business.)
One of my coaching clients hired me specifically to help her with personal
productivity. She felt at loose ends. Working diligently, 70-80 hours a week,
she had built her company to a point where day-to-day operations didn't really
require her. She needed to monitor but release the day-to-day activities and
focus on the future. Part of her problem was worrying about what people would
think. She didn't look busy.
Creating vision, setting the direction, hiring the right people and motivating
them to rise to new challenges is a different kind of work. It may appear less
busy and more relaxed but the cogitation factor is intense. Once she viewed her
position differently she was able to let go, and measure her personal
productivity in new ways.
Can delegating help develop your employees?
Delegating allows others to gain skill, experience, and confidence. We learn by
Some years ago when I went to pick up my three year old from Montessori school
she was excited about something new she had learned. She could put on her heavy
winter coat all by herself. She placed the coat, button side up, on the floor
facing away from her. Leaning over, she put a hand into each sleeve and in one
quick motion hoisted the coat up over her head, the sleeves slipped up her arms
and there she stood, ready to go home, grinning with pride and new found
Too often we underestimate what people can accomplish. We make assumptions based
on our own limitations. I knew only one way to put on a coat and my daughter
couldn't do it without struggling. With this new method she put on her coat
faster than I did mine.
Effective delegation can build loyalty and a stronger team while increasing the
group's skill and knowledge. It's good management. Meanwhile, you'll be free to
focus on your priorities.
Delegation is not dumping. Successful delegation has four components.
1. Give the job to someone who can get it done.
This doesn't assume that he/she has all the necessary skills or resources for
execution. Pick someone who is motivated and capable. If they need training, get
it. You'll be adding to the strength and knowledge base of your team.
Maximize strategic outsourcing. Find competent people or companies in
technology, public relations, marketing, design, finance, or whatever you need.
Interview several, and find the right fit for your business needs.
2. Communicate precise expectations.
Timeframes, budgets, and anticipated outcomes must be clearly spelled out. Lack
of parameters is a set up for failure. Notice that I didn't say, "Tell them how
you want it done." If it's your way or the highway it's not delegation. Remember
there is more than one right way to accomplish most tasks. Focus on results.
3. Set up a plan - a structure for accountability.
The plan includes all the things in number two plus milestones and measurements.
Be sure to set up times for conferences or e-mailed status reports. (These
should be brief - just an update - don't micro-manage.) If changes need to be
made along the way you can avoid derailment. Be available however if guidance is
4. Measure outcomes.
Setbacks occur, situations change, but be sure to measure outcomes within
reasonable parameters. Today's excuse becomes tomorrow's failure. If you're
holding someone else's feet to the fire just be sure the fire isn't your fault.
Leaders by nature tend to be controlling. Letting go is risky and scary. Faith
in yourself and your ability to select the right people is imperative. When your
name is on the door everything seems personal, but this is business. Use
effective delegation as a leadership strategy to get your organization to the
Word count 1035
Nash is a nationally recognized consultant, speaker and author in the
areas of change and resilience. To receive her free E-zine Bouncing Back go to
www.Lindanash.com To contact Linda
314.872.8787 or e-mail
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