Know Why You are Delegating

Kevin P. Dincher

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 gets 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.  [The Beginner Delegator]

Many managers are reluctant to delegate.  Some think that they can do the work faster themselves.  Others believe no one can do the work as well as they can.  Some fear that delegating may cause them to lose control or that others may perceive them as weak.  When these managers decide to delegate it is usually because feel they need to off-load work that they simply don’t have time to do—or would rather not do themselves.

So, why delegate—beyond the need for getting work done?  Because delegating done well is one of the most useful tools for accomplishing one of the core tasks of leaders:  developing people.  In Developing the Leader Within You,  John C. Maxwell observes that there are three levels of people/work skills:

  • Level 1:  The person who works better with people is a follower.
  • Level 2:  The person who helps people work better is a manager.
  • Level 3:  The person who develops better people to work is a leader.

Managers and leaders who delegate well do so because they want to help their people work better and to help their people grow—because, as Kouzes and Posner put it, one of the fundamental task of leaders is to enable people to act.

A leader’s ability to enable others to act is essential.  Constituents neither perform at their best nor sick around very long if their leaders makes them feel weak, dependent or alienated.  But when a leader makes them people feel strong and capable—as if they can do more than they ever thought possible—they’ll give it their all and exceed their own expectations.  (The Leadership Challenge, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner)

Delegating done well not only fosters collaboration by building trust, but it also strengths people by developing their competence.  It is also good for the organization.  “Innovation and creativity happen when individuals enjoy a wide berth and the managerial support to take risks and experiment” (Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World,  Chris Lowney).

Delegating done well, therefore, is not just about giving work to someone else.  The best delegators understand that they are giving other people and the organization the opportunity for growth and development.  That requires a generous spirit—a spirit that both values people and readily gives time and effort to them.

So, why delegate?  Because delegating done well is leadership done well.

A leader with a generous spirit delegates not just routine work, but understands about delegating worthwhile work that becomes a gift of development and growth for someone else. How we love those leaders. These are the leaders that make us want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work to give that person the very best that we have to offer. These are the leaders who get our discretionary effort, every day.

 Bruna Martinuzzi, Degrees of Giving:  Leading with Generosity, Mindtools

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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