Thursday, January 03, 2008

Are you a good delegator?

One of the attributes of any really good leader (or manager) is the art of delegation. I genuinely believe delegation is an art.

Let's be honest, most of us struggle with delegation. I will admit that during my corporate career in healthcare I was not always good at it. I used to think I was better than many of my peers at delegation but I recognise now that too often I didn’t really ‘let go’

We ‘half hold on’ to the job and that’s clearly not real delegation. It is not fair to the leader or the follower.

Before I became self employed the bosses I enjoyed working for most were those who just ‘left me alone’ to get on with my job and did not ‘interfere.’

‘Interference’ should not be confused with ‘support.’

Those best bosses somehow managed to create a relationship that implicitly said;

‘I’m here if you need me but otherwise I trust you entirely to just get on with the job.’

All employees are different of course and some may not like to be ‘left alone’ by their boss. Some employees like re-assurance and regular contact with the boss. That is fine and my style is not one that I would suggest is universal.

I’ve always taken the view that I have been selected by my boss to do a job and there will be a fair expectation that I am capable of getting on with the job. The boss will have no need to worry that I will constantly check out whether I am doing OK.

I see the relationship between leader and follower as 'an understanding' something on these lines:

A good boss:


*Will not tell me what to do
*Will not be breathing down my neck
*Will not be constantly checking my progress
*Will ‘be there’ when I need support

A good follower:

*Will ask when needing help
*Will not constantly ask permission of the boss
*Will tell the leader only what he/she needs to know
*Will be loyal to the leader ‘in public’ but challenge the leader privately

Are you a good delegator?

4 comments:

flanok said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark - Happy New Year!

The thing that strikes me about the most successful coaches/managers in football like Sir Alex Ferguson is that they have that brilliant knack of recognising players who need a kick up the backside and those who need an arm around the shoulder. The same applies at ever level of management I think.

I like your 10% and 90% illustration – that is very true in my experience too. Most people most of the time are quite happy to just get on with their job without interference by managers.

progmanager said...

I read Richard Branson's book 'Screw It Let's Do It' over Christmas. (I recommend it highly for those interested in entrepreneurship and how it can be a force for positive social change.

In it he says 'People have asked me how I can take so much time off to go on adventures around the world. My answer is delegation.'

Sounds like a pretty strong endorsement to me. The problem is that so few managers have never been taught how to delegate or how and when to delegate in the context of building a high performing team. Many try delegating based on sound common sense - find the results to be less than satisfactory so resort to either doing it themselves or just giving instructions.

I have been training managers in delegation for a while now and really enjoy it because they find it so useful! Few get to go on 'Bransonesque' type escapades - but most report getting more time to do the important things in life. http://tinyurl.com/2eunx9

Trevor Gay said...

Hi ‘progmanager’ – is that Mike Chitty?

I read ‘Screw it Let’s Do’ it last summer and I loved it. I posted on my Blog in December that this the best book I read in 2007.

Richard Branson is right and we all know it – but ‘letting go’ is a real challenge for most people.

I worked with someone who told me ‘The best way to gain power is to let go of power’

My experience in 30 years as a manager of people in healthcare is that when I really ‘let go’ I always found that employees accountable to me did the job equally as well as me – often better – and they thanked me.

I think the fear of letting go is worse than the reality and I am sure it empowers the manager who can then spend more time doing more reflecting, planning and visioning.

Thanks again and a Happy New Year!