Successful leadership of any organization is dependent on the ability to effectively delegate. Good delegation is a defining feature of a “leader of leaders.”
This is where effective delegation comes into play. Typically, many of us leaders slip into either end of what I call the Delegation Spectrum:
On some creative-type projects in which I had high interest, I tended to dominate. My fingerprints would be all over every aspect with a micromanaged obsession. In other arenas, I would abdicate, thinking that the person would (or in my mind, should) be able to intuitively figure out how to make it work. Or worse, I might abdicate if it was something that I frankly was glad to hand off. In both cases, I was the bottleneck. Not only was I being ineffective in the ultimate productivity of the organization, but I was unaware of the effect I was having on those who worked (or volunteered) with me. Or even if was aware, I just wanted to see the job get done. If you tend to lean into the Domination end of the spectrum, you’re typically frustrated in several ways:
You’re obsessed with what your team member is working on and where they are all the time
The results are usually exasperating to you
You not-so-secretly would have done it differently (er, better…)
You want copied on every email
The devil-is-in-the-details…and you’re constantly performing an exorcism. Let’s be honest: you secretly enjoy correcting the details.
Trust me: your employee or volunteer feels you don’t trust them, they’re demotivated and are aggravated with being micromanaged. What’s worse, your personal productivity is stunted in the long run. While you’re in the weeds, high-level strategic work is being compromised. Leaders must routinely remind themselves, “What is it that only I can do?”—because of the unique role that the leader of an organization has. If you fall more at the Abdication end of the spectrum, you’re probably finding yourself frustrated in these ways:
Your initial euphoria at handing off a task is soon diluted by the less-than-stellar results
You wonder why your people aren’t more intuitive (read: like you!)
You end up firing people because the job didn’t get done the way it should have.
On the flipside, you probably don’t realize the effect that abdicating has on your team members. For one, they assume you’re really disinterested in their work. Deep down they know you gave them a job you didn’t want to do. That may be true, but they should clearly understand that it’s so you can focus on the things your position requires that only you should do. They may also be frustrated because they rarely meet with you and feel deserted. With no clear goal or measurements for success (and often no end in sight), they will eventually feel under-challenged and unfulfilled. The bottom line is: domination equals a lack of trust; abdication signals a lack of care. Domination is all about micromanaging; abdication is simply avoidance. The sweet spot in the Delegation Spectrum is learning how to empower:
Truly effective delegation is all about empowering someone with the authority and responsibility to act in your behalf. But like each system in every organization, there needs to be a well-thought out process for healthy delegation. In the next post, I’ll outline a practical 4-phase process for delegation that empowers your potential leaders. But if you don’t want to wait, you can download a free 7-page pdf on “The Power of Delegation” that this post is based on…no strings attached.
Dave Workman | Elemental Churches