Delegating Responsibly


“Surround yourself with the best people you can find,
delegate authority, and don’t interfere.”
Ronald Reagan

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do
and let them surprise you with their results. “
George S. Patton

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So, the vision has been crafted and communicated, all your employees are on board and the mission is planned.  Now it’s time to carry out that plan.  As a leader, you cannot be everywhere at once.  That means you need to delegate to others.  They will execute the plan and accomplish the mission. 

Merriam -Webster’s Dictionary defines delegating as “to entrust to anotheror to appoint as one’s representative”.  Delegation is defined as “the act of empowering to act for another”.  Another definition of delegation reads: the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities.   However, the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work.”

Please notice that the definitions above contain the words empowering, entrust, authority, responsibility and accountability.   This can be a sticking point for many leaders.  These words have as much to do with relationships as they do with delegating.

Have You Planned Ahead?

Many things precede delegating responsibly.  It requires choosing the right person or persons to delegate to.   That requires having a pool of folks you can trust when the time comes.

When interviewing a candidate for an open position, how often have you asked yourself, “Will I be able to trust this person with more responsibility?”  If you are not considering how candidates can grow within your organization during the interview process you are not planning far enough ahead.   The day you need an employee to step up is not the day you want to be asking yourself this question. 

It’s all or nothing

Many times subordinates are given responsibility for the completion of a project but not the authority to make decisions regarding the project.   When delegating responsibility for a task or project it’s time to go “all in”.  If you cannot trust an individual with the authority over a task, don’t encumber them with the responsibility.

Then there is the issue of accountability.   Notice that the definition above states you delegate responsibility but the accountability for the outcome still rests on your shoulders.   It’s just another reason why determining which of your folks are the right people to take on more responsibility begins in their initial interview.  

Failure May Not Be an Option — But It Is a Possibility

In allowing folks the opportunity to take on a project there’s always the possibility they may fail.  But making mistakes and experiencing failure can be one of Life’s best learning experiences.  It’s part of the developmental process.  Yes, since you are accountable, you answerable for their results.  The question is can you see past the possibility of failure to the value of letting your folks have the opportunity to try out their skills solo?

Certainly the one project that will make or break your company may not be the best one to delegate as someone’s first project.  However, if you do not become adept at choosing employees well and developing them you may have no one to delegate to when the time comes.  You cannot do it all.  If you have too much on your plate you risk making mistakes and failure as well.

There is No “I” in TEAMReally…

As trite as that phrase may be, as a leader you need to surround yourself with a strong team.  Picking good team members and fully investing in them is just the start.   Delegating responsibly requires trusting them and placing their success before yours.

Here to serve,

John Duba

Next month:   Being Coach and Cheerleader

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