The Beginner Delegator

Kevin P. Dincher

Are you a work hoarder who wants to start delegating?  It may be difficult to know how to start.  While delegating done well saves time and money and builds up and motivates people, delegating done poorly can frustrate and confuse people and end up costing you more in the end.  Not delegating at all may be better than delegating poorly.  There are four things you should do to prepare to pass on work to an individual or team for the first time.

  1. Know why you are delegating.
  2. Carefully select the work.
  3. Carefully select the people.
  4. Communicate.

Know why you are delegating. 

Are you delegating simply to off-load work that you would rather not do?  Or are you delegating in order to build up your people and organization?  If it is only the former, then you probably won’t be a good delegator.  Delegation done well is a two-way street:  the work does get done and you are successful—and your people develop skills that make them better employees and achieve the success that makes them happier employees.  Everyone wins.  [More on knowing why your are delegating.]

Carefully select the work. 

You should always choose the work you will delegate carefully—but this is especially true for the hoarder-turned-delegator when neither you nor your staff is accustomed to delegation.

  • Select something that can actually be delegated and is suitable for being delegated.  There are things that you have to do and that cannot be delegated.
  • Select something that has a specific outcome or goal that can be clearly identified or measured.
  • Select something that is not extremely big or that will require a great deal of time or a large number of people to accomplish.  Think of something that can reasonably be completed in two or three months by one to three people.  Creating short-term wins is important when trying something new.
  • Select something that is interesting and that meets a clear need of your organization.   Do not start by giving people something boring or meaningless to do—and the success of the project should matter.

Carefully select the people. 

Putting the right people in the right job makes all the difference, therefore don’t delegate a job to just anyone.  Know why you are delegating this particular job to these particular people, why these people are the best people for getting this particular job done.  Identify the general task areas needed to get the job done and use that information to select the people best suited for the job.  Take into consideration their ability and skills as well as their potential, motivation and learning capacity.   Make sure you consider and plan for training needs.


Good communication is key to delegating done well.  Without it you will be disappointed in the process and the results—and your people will feel like failures.  You will need to have a frank two-way conversation with the people you have chosen.

  • Everyone needs to understand what work is being delegated—and what work is not being delegated.
  • The people you have chosen need to know why this job needs to be done, how it fits into the bigger picture and why success matters—as well as what they are going to get out of it and what you are going to get out of it.
  • There needs to be clarity on what resources are needed and available–people, facilities, time, equipment, materials, money, training, mentoring, etc.  You need to listen to concerns about resources.  Be prepared to work creatively to resolve those concerns—but also be prepared to honest about resources that are not available.
  • You need to get agreement on timelines and deadlines.  Be prepared to negotiate.  You may have to move some things around or change expectations in order to support getting this work done.
  • Work our meeting and communication plans.  Create a process for status reporting to ensure that the work is on track.  It is also important to let people know how they are doing, so your communication plan needs to include how feedback will be provided.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities—especially your own role in supporting this work (mentoring, facilitating problem-solving, eliminating barriers, etc.).  Your people need to know who is going to do what as well as what they can expect from you.

Additional needs for clarification and concerns will emerge through this discussion.  Listen to them and work creatively with your people to come up with solutions.

Delegating done well requires a great deal of front-end work—but doing the front-end work makes all the difference.  Do you have any other suggestions for the work hoarder trying to become a delegator?

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Would You Recommend Us?

Kevin P. Dincher

While assisting a client company with its first customer satisfaction survey recently, I was asked by their marketing group who was driving the survey what I thought about the question:  “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our company to your friends and colleagues?”  My response:  great question.  Not ground-breaking—there have been articles recommending using this simple question to measure customer loyalty for at least a decade—but a good question which may actually have greater significance today than it did ten years ago.

The would-you-recommend-us question originates in the theory that willingness-to-recommend correlates to satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Customers who are highly likely to recommend your company—scores of 9 and 10—are highly satisfied and are potential promoters of the company who will likely generate positive word-of-mouth
  • Customers who give low scores—0 through 6—are somewhat to highly dissatisfied and are potential detractors of the company who will likely generate negative word-of-mouth.
  • Customers who give scores of 7 or 8 are passively satisfied.  Although they are generally satisfied with the products and services they receive, they are not going to be detractors of the company—but their level of satisfaction is not so high that they will be promoters of the company either.  They probably aren’t going to trash talk your company, but they are going to promote you either.

Your net promoter score is the difference in the percentage of customers who are promoters and the percentage who are detractors.  [For example, if 20% of your customers are promoters and 50% of your customers are detractors, then your net promoter score is -30.]  There is supposedly a close correlation between net promoter scores and a company’s revenue growth.  Obviously, the higher the net promoter score, the more likely your buyers and customers are to generate positive word-of-mouth.

The Growing Impact of Word-of-Mouth

The impact of word-of-mouth—positive or negative—has never been greater.  The proliferation of mobile devices combined with the rise of social media is creating a world where your customers and potential customers are always online, always connected and always sharing their reactions and impressions.   Increasingly, your customers and potential customers are making up their minds about your company, products and services based upon what is being said about you online.  Your biggest hurdle may no longer be your competitors; it may be the ability of potential customers to learn about you on their own from online reviews, posts, blogs, yelps and tweets—making it increasingly difficult for you to control the message.  Therefore, managing the customer experience so that it generates positive word-of-mouth is increasingly importance.  The would-you-recommend-us question can give you some insight into how well you are doing that.

The worry is that companies ask the would-you- recommend-us question without doing enough follow-up to understand what it is they are doing right or wrong.  In fact, my client’s marketing group wanted to keep the customer satisfaction survey “super simple”—they just wanted to ask the one question:  would you recommend us?  It took a surprising amount of work to convince them of something that seemed obvious to me:  they needed to ask why a customer would or would not recommend the company.  Otherwise, how would they know what to keep on doing and what changes to make.  Changes?  Who said anything about making any changes?

The Cardinal Rule of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

The cardinal rule of customer satisfaction surveys is a simple one:  if you are not prepared to make changes based upon customer feedback, then do not do a customer satisfaction survey.

Conducting customer satisfaction surveys contains two inherent dangers.  The first is that you are asking your customers to remember annoyances, difficulties, problems, etc.—things that they don’t like about your company.  Asking your survey questions can actually lower your customers’ sense of satisfaction.  This makes the second danger all the more critical:  if you do not make changes based upon the feedback your customers provide, your message to them is that you do not really care about either their feedback or the difficulties they have experienced.   Customer satisfaction surveys can have a negative impact on customer experience—and actually increase negative word-of-mouth.

So, “would you recommend us?” can be an incredibly useful question to ask customers—if you ask the follow-up questions to find out why or why not—and if the answers generate change.  Otherwise, don’t ask.

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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Are You are Work Hoarder?

Kevin P. Dincher

Are you overloaded and stressed from having too much to do with no way out from under the workload in sight?  Are you working long hours and feeling completely indispensable—and feeling a little resentful that your staff seems to be able to keep pretty regular hours?  Is your day regularly eaten up by minor details so that you never get to your really important work?  If so, you may be a work hoarder:  someone who won’t—or can’t—delegate.

Regardless of the size of the organization or the industry, team and business leaders, managers and executives often have trouble not doing the work themselves and figuring out how to get the work done by managing and leading people.   Delegation is a critical skill both for personal success and for the success of the organization you lead.

What Delegation Is Not … and Is

Delegation is not simply assigning work to others and telling them what to do and how to do it.

When you delegate, you assign the authority and responsibility for a specific activity.  You are not just assigning work; you are assigning the decision-making authority.  If the person needs to do exactly what you would do or needs to run decisions by you before acting, then you are not really delegating.

Delegation is not abdication. 

You may shift the authority and responsibility for the work, but you remain accountable for the outcome of the work.  Therefore, you need to stay engaged.  You must provide the people who are now responsible for getting the work done with the guidance, resources and skill development that they need in order to succeed.  Delegation does not mean saying, “Here, go do this, and let me know when you’re done.”

Delegation is not just about getting work done. 

Well, actually delegating can be just about getting the work done.  But if it is, then you are missing out.  An organization is not a collection of buildings, strategies, tactics, processes and projects.  Ultimately an organization is people and relationships—and one of the core tasks of leaders is to develop men and women of competence, conviction and commitment.  Delegating at its best is one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal to accomplish this core task.  Developing your delegation skills and integrating delegation into the way you do things, therefore, is a process with a learning curve for everyone, not a single decision or act.

 Benefits of Delegating

When delegating is done well several positives occur for leaders.  Leaders and managers who delegate become more productive.  They are under less pressure because their work day is not dominated and eaten up by minor details.  They have more time to focus on their primary responsibilities and can focus on developing their people and their organization; they have the time and the energy to be creative and get better results.  Leaders who delegate also have more time for their own self-development.

When delegating is done well, employees benefit as well.  Having new work delegated to them creates opportunities to learn and grow—and they are often energized by the challenge of new and interesting work along with the acknowledgement of their potential.  They feel valued and become more motivated and engaged.

In the end the overall organization benefits when leaders and managers delegate.  The organization gets leaders who are less stressed, who can focus on the bigger picture and broader issues of the organization, who are themselves growing and developing and who are able to achieve goals with better results.  The organization also gets a workforce that is increasingly engaged, committed and competent.

So, Why Don’t Managers and Leaders Delegate?

Time Issues. 

“Most people will tell you they are too busy to delegate — that it’s more efficient for them to just do it themselves,” says Carol Walker, the president of Prepared to Lead, a consulting firm that focuses on developing young leaders.  You can do it faster yourself, and training and guiding people takes too long.  Developing delegation skills and integrating delegation into the way you do things takes time, so this may be true in the short run.

Delegating at its best, however, is an investment in the long-term development of your staff—with long-term impact and advantages.  So, a key question is:  why am I considering delegating?  To get some particular work done as quickly as possible (short-term solution to an immediate problem)?  Or to develop a new way of getting the work done and grow your people (long-term development)?   Your answer will clarify your approach to delegating.  Either way, you don’t want to start out by pass on a major time-critical project.

Trust Issues.

Some managers are perfectionists who believe no one can do it as well as they can.  But even those who are not exactly perfectionists often do not trust their staff’s ability to handle the work—and are convinced that they will make a mess of it.

This is a complicated issue.  You need to be okay with the possibility—and the probability—that your staff will make mistakes.  If, however, you want people to learn, then you can’t make decisions for them.  You can help them develop their critical thinking skills so that they become better at handling situations on their own—but ultimately that means being willing to let them make mistakes and figure out (perhaps with some coaching) how to correct them.

On the other hand, it is your responsibility to put the right people in the right job.  If you are going to pass on work, you don’t pass it on to just anyone—but to the people you believe have the potential, the motivation and the learning capacity to get the job done.  If you haven’t selected well, then it may be impossible to let go and delegate.

Security Issues.

Some managers and executives believe that passing on work detracts from their own importance.  “Giving up being ‘the go-to expert’ takes tremendous confidence and perspective even in the healthiest environments,” says Walker.  Some managers lack self-confidence, fearing they will be upstaged—or even replaced—by their subordinates.

Delegation at its best requires self-confidence.  We need to be comfortable enough to accept our limitations—that we can’t do everything ourselves and don’t know everything.  Also we cannot be threatened by sharing success with our teams.  Actually, it seems that the most successful leaders are those who go beyond being comfortable with sharing success; the most successful leaders possess a genuine spirit of generosity.  Such leaders are actually motivated and energized by a desire to nurture and develop their people and share the success and rewards with them.

Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Leadership, Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , . Comments Off on Are You are Work Hoarder?
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