The Road to Delegation

October 31, 2011 at 12:41 am Leave a comment

“Delegating is the act of empowering an individual with a pre-determined level of authority to complete assigned projects or tasks. The ability to delegate is one of the marks of a good leader.”

– Dianne Stacey

In some ways, being a good company leader is analogous to being a good parent. You must be strong and encouraging, attentive and yet authoritative. And both roles share another commonality: the need to learn when to let go.

I used to think that being a good leader meant being a one-woman show. In the early days of the New York Kids Club, I was determined to fill the roles of director, producer, cast and crew – all on my own!

So there I found myself every day, hauling heavy boxes, setting up for birthday parties, handling payroll, shoveling snow. Whatever the task, I was right there in the thick of it. (Funnily enough, I even had a full staff at the Kids Club by this time, so my self-inflicted angst was not due to any shortage of manpower!)

Unbeknownst to me, I was going through a strange form of denial. Why was I so resistant to delegating?

What I have come to realize over the years is that delegating responsibilities successfully is one of the trickiest lessons to learn as a business owner. Many employers find themselves stuck in the mindset of:

  1. There is no one else to delegate these tasks to.
  2. I don’t know whether I can trust someone else to do this.
  3. I know I can do this better myself.
  4. I am the only person who knows how to do this.
  5. I don’t want to give up this project because I like doing it.
  6. I don’t have time to show anyone else how to do this.

These excuses, though they make total sense to the mind using them, can often yield negative results — feelings of being constantly overwhelmed, decreased productivity, miscommunications with staff members — all which can lead to the suffering of work quality or general dissatisfaction with one’s job.

Overcoming the “one-woman-show” attitude doesn’t happen overnight. It is a work-in-constant-progress.


1. There is no one else to delegate these tasks to.
2. I don’t know whether I can trust someone else to do this.

These are the most crucial demons to exorcise when starting out on the Road to Delegation. I caution that in either finding new or trusting current team members with added responsibilities, you do need to be mindful with what you are entrusting – and to whom. For instance, it may not be wise to delegate a responsibility concerning the business bank account numbers to an employee whom you sense might be leaving the company. Be mindful, but not paranoid. If you have reason to be that concerned about compromising your sensitive information, then you may not be working with the right people to begin with.

3. I know I can do this better myself.

Chalk this one up to ego. If you trust people enough to work for your company, you must accept that their styles will invariably differ from your own. And so they should! You should want a diverse team of intelligent, creative people! Your success at a task doesn’t necessarily mean that your way is the only right way, or vice versa. Be prepared to accept these differences and celebrate them!


4. I am the only person who knows how to do this.

If that’s really true, it can’t possible be good, in any context. What if you are sick and can’t come in to accomplish this special task that only you know how to accomplish? What if you are finally able to take that vacation you deserve? If you or one of your staff members is that set on being the only one possessed of certain knowledge or skills, then the problem likely runs deeper than the task at hand.


5. I don’t want to give up this project because I like doing it.

If you enjoy doing a task so much, then why be selfish? Give the gift of fun to a team member so s/he will be able to join in and share in such a positive experience. Being part of a team means sharing the tears and the laughs. Why would anyone want to withhold a great joke? To keep it from getting passed on?


6. I don’t have time to show anyone else how to do this.

The reason you don’t have time to show someone else how to do it is because you never took the time to show someone else how to do it! The more time you spend training team members, the more freedom you will have to delegate responsibilities. The more time invested showing someone else how you accomplish a set task, the more time you will eventually earn for yourself! And the more energy you will have to conquer each new day.

Be specific when communicating to your team the results you desire, but try not to micromanage the process itself. I think George Smith Patton Jr. summed it up quite nitely when he said: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity.”

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Entry filed under: Archive.

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