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4 Steps to Delegating Without Abdicating

Building Effective Delegation

Mastering effective delegation can help business owners/managers on many levels. It can help them gain confidence AND multiply good organizational results by a greater level. It can prevent job burnout, reduce stress levels, and promote healthy work/life balance. And, delegation is one of THE greatest tools to equip and mold others to grow as leaders, as well as improve the team and organization. But often delegation is weak, or simply lacking from an organization.

Why do people NOT delegate? It often comes down to feelings of fear: fear of loss of control, fear that someone else might actually do it better, fear of the unknown, fear of judgment from others (“He can’t handle this on his own”). And, as Mitch Meyerson states, some people are “compulsively self-reliant.”

Often there are stated reasons around not delegating: “I tried it once.” “It takes me longer to teach them than to do it myself.” “I know I’ll do it right.” The real reason, in some cases, is that the owners/managers simply don’t trust themselves. They don’t trust that they know how to delegate without losing control while doing it.

It helps to move someone through the delegation process if they understand that delegation does not mean abdication. Loss of control does not need to be part of the equation if delegation is done purposefully and properly. Proper delegating means empowering someone else, and, as result, growing the results of the organization (and, possibly, make yourself look better). The manager/owner—the “delegator”– must understand that he/she is ultimately in control, and that every employee needs to get better in order for the business to grow. Delegation involves leadership and growth for everyone. If an employee doesn’t grow, that person will possibly be a drain on the organization. The delegator must be able to see: “I add value, but my focus is to help the WHOLE organization grow in value, in order for it to move forward.” In other words, like a chain, the organization is only as strong as its weakest link.

Additionally, the delegator needs to look inside him/herself and answer the questions: “Why am I trying to build this organization for myself, as a person?” “What are MY needs as the owner/manager?” Partnering with employees is a great way for the owner to get his/her personal needs met…and delegation is a great way to partner with employees, and inspire them to be their best.

What is needed to start an effective delegation process? First, the delegator needs to give the employee (or, “delegatee”) the whole process, i.e.: a “map”, showing processes, procedures, and guidelines in the area being discussed. If everyone is “too busy” to do this, there may be a need to look at how organizational planning is done. In this situation, as in business planning, this “mapping” time, is time well spent (1 minute of planning saves 9 minutes of chaos. True).

The owner/manager needs to partner with the employee to set the guidelines. If a milestone is missed, they need to work together on a recovery plan. The boss needs to ask the employee what she needs to make the delegated task work: what is needed externally (office space, software, etc.), and internally (to meet regularly with the boss, other colleagues, etc.).

Four Levels of Effective Delegation

There are four levels of delegation, from novice to advanced, depending on the skill level of the employee. These are in ascending order. Say to the “delegatee”:

1. “You go do _____, get facts, make a suggestion, and I’ll decide.”

2. “You go do _____, get facts, make a decision, and wait until I say ‘Okay.’”

3. “You go do _____, get facts, make a decision, take action, and report regularly to me.”

4. “You go do _____, get facts, make a decision, take action, and only tell me when something goes wrong.”

To develop an effective delegation process, the owner/manager must appreciate some truths:

· Proper delegation grows employees, and often builds organizational morale and loyalty.

· Proper delegation can ensure that the proper result occurs—and in a timely way.

· The majority of employees expects and requires clarity of assignments.

· The majority of employees expects and requires mutual understanding.

· There is a distinction between end results expected and how the task is accomplished (i.e.: let the ends justify the means—after all, someone else may find a better way to accomplish the task).

· A series of checkpoints and controls must be built in when delegating a task.

3 mistakes to Avoid

There are 3 mistakes to avoid when introducing delegation into the owner/manager’s skill set:

1. Starting delegation when he/she is in a crisis (at this time, focus should be on recovery and planning)

2. Not establishing benchmarks and/or milestones with the employee.

3. Not specifying results for the delegator to live up to, as well as the delegatee… Good delegation means mutual accountability and support.

Learning and practicing effective delegation has its rewards–for the employee, the company and the manager. It is well worth the time and practice to do it well. If you’re open to having support to effectively delegate, let me know.


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