The Art of Delegation

imagesEvery family is known for something. Some for their academic achievements, some for their sporting prowess, others for their creativity, compassion, generosity etc. My family were known for being hardworking and self-sufficient. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents all pioneered virgin land from the South Australian outback in the 1800s to my parent’s property in postwar Victoria. As a small child I remember spending my weekends rabbiting, stone picking and helping my parents fence our farm and build sheds in preparation for the busyness of mixed farming on a large scale. With four siblings we did it all; everyone had their specific responsibilities, it was constant and intensive, but we were self-reliant and self-sufficient as a family and we asked help of no-one.

This of course satisfied my sense of achievement and independence but it proved to be unhelpful when it came to leadership later in life. Delegation was not in my DNA. It was a foreign concept and to change meant first recognising why I was unable to do it. However, I had really appreciated those who had been able to recognise my skills, passion and abilities and given me opportunities to develop in so many ways, but I still found it so hard to do.

download (18)The process towards change began when I realised that being a successful leader meant leaving a legacy. What happens after I leave determines how successful I really am, so unless I could learn to delegate I could never develop future leaders.

Imparting knowledge, techniques, skills and passion is the role of a leader, then walking along side those who will follow us, until they can stand alone, is a leader’s responsibility.

The reason that delegation is difficult is because there are more reasons for not delegating than there are for doing so. This is because we often have wrong concept of it.

Initially it is not about easing your workload.

Delegation is not dumping the menial tasks, the things you hate doing, or the things that you can’t do. It is about developing others, accepting different views and ways of doing things. It is giving a brief on expected outcomes, timelines and, where possible, support with resources and backup, especially in the early stages until you know their capabilities.

When you ask someone to take on a responsibility, you are more likely to get a positive response if you say why you have chosen them and explain the support that you are going to offer. Very few people will say yes if they feel they are being dumped on. Everyone is “busy” so when we take on an extra job or responsibility, there needs to be something for us as well.

What should be our motivation for delegating?
1. To develop skills to broaden the scope of the organisation.
2. To introduce different ideas and ways of accomplishing tasks.
3. Stimulating and challenging peoples creativity.
4. To Identify potential leaders.
5. We are all more efficient if we do not spread ourselves to thinly.

How do we delegate?
1. Give a clear vision of what you want, why you want it and when you need it.
2. Provide any helpful resources, materials and support.
3. Follow up to see how they are proceeding.
4. Allow a margin of creativity, autonomy and sense of ownership and afford them the credit for a job well done.

Andrew Carnegie – Owner and Manager of US Steel and the richest man in the USA in his time, had this carved on his tombstone:

Here lies a man who knew how to get people to work for him
who were better than he was!

Delegating is helping others to succeed, as well as yourself and the organisation, and is the only real way to achieve success that is important and lasting.

Marg SandersMargaret Sanders
MOPS Global Development Team

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