Monday, February 25, 2013

Delegate Outcomes, Not Just Steps

Recently, I have seen an epidemic of poor delegation which is resulting in many strategic and operational problems. I have come to the conclusion that many leaders and managers in their developing years did not experience good delegation and thus they can not role model good delegation. Since it is clear that you can not teach what you have not already learned, the same goes with delegation. While I wish there was a blue light special on aisle two where leaders could get three packets of delegation experience for the price of one, I have come to the conclusion that we need to simply reeducate the entire management structure of many companies about what is delegation.  

First, the standard dictionary definition of delegation revolves around the transferring of authority and responsibility from one person to another in order to carry out a specific activity. While this sounds straight forward, I always point out to leaders and managers that in order to do this transferring of authority and responsibility well, we need to actually redefine delegation into three levels of delegation.

In Level-One Delegation, we, as leaders and managers, give direct control to someone or a group to do whatever needs to be done as long as it is full alignment with the strategic nexus, i.e. the sum of the company’s mission, vision and core values plus their strategic plan.

In Level-Two Delegation, we, as leaders and managers, give direct control to someone or a group to do whatever needs to be done but first ask that all choices are discussed at the time of delegation and that there are defined parameters to the possible actions that can be taken. In short, Level-Two Delegation is delegation with an expectation of results but also with limited choices.

Finally, in Level-Three Delegation, the person or team being delegated to is given the opportunity to generate ideas about how to achieve the desired results but no control over how the work gets done. While this can result in action without commitment, it is often used when very tight parameters for action are needed.

Once we are clear about what kind of delegation is taking place, I often like to ask all involved a couple of questions. First, do they understand the problem that is trying to be solved through delegation? Remember that awareness is not understanding. 

Second, do they believe they have the authority to do it successfully? Commitment without understanding is a problem, and so is responsibility without choice a problem. 

Third, do they know how to do it? Having the right knowledge and skills makes a huge difference when it comes to successful delegation. 

Finally, do they know how to measure progress and/or success? This one factor alone can make or break successful delegation.

While delegation is not easy, it is a mission critical skill set for being a successful leader and manager. Starting today be more mindful when you do it, and take more time in the beginning. It will pay off in the long run.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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