One of the best lessons I’ve learn in 2019 is the truly awesome power of delegation.

Delegation is one of those buzz words we hear all the time in a typical corporate environment. My observation is that it’s often used by mangers in a rather cynical fashion that are simply looking to pass over more menial tasks to staff reporting into them and not in a way that will have any long-term transformative impact or benefit to those picking up these workloads. In other words, it is too often used as a means of saving time or clearing desks even, simply for the convenience of the delegating manager

Also, quite often managers that think they are delegating effectively are still holding onto certain tasks they feel are beyond the capabilities of their reports for a variety of reasons…

  • They feel they are able to do the job better, so why hand over as doing so is a false economy?
  • They retain tasks based on a form of neurotic control
  • Or worse still, they are concerned others will get credit for the beefier work that they wish to retain control over

Considering the various factors above, for meaningful impact to result from delegating responsibilities to your team it will take a lot more skill than simply passing the work that is clogging up your desk downstream; this is not delegation, it is simply partitioning labour for the sake of personal convenience. The outcome you should strive for is more based on creating a situation where your team moves forwards as a unit by virtue of the need and desire of individuals to step up to the task and grow and this only happens when they operate outside their comfort zone and have the confidence and resources to do so.

For the magic to truly happen, you need to take a leap of faith, overcome your fears or neuroses and delegate some truly meaningful workloads that will have an identifiable impact on your business and in turn the level of accountability of your team. Only by taking this transformative leap will big changes be allowed to happen and if you get it right, it results in an amazing win-win for the business.

Clearly there are risks involved and it would be foolhardy not to take steps to safeguard against those. Successful delegation requires calculated risk, which in turn means the following…

  • You have the right people around you with the requisite competence
  • They also have the desire to step up and take on bigger challenges
  • You have the right training and tools in place to set people up for success

Underlying all of this, it’s important you create a work culture that is supportive and, within reason, where staff are allowed to fail with the correct support structure and feedback cycles in place to enable a continual learning process. The fact is for organic growth to happen, there has to be trial and error as only through this cycle will the best people be able to learn from their mistakes and renew efforts with this learning for future opportunities.

The dynamics I refer to above are clearly far more sophisticated than the standard linear quasi-delegation activities I refer to in the opening paragraph and this speaks in no small part to the types of activities good leaders should be dedicating their time to and the types of questions that should be asking of themselves and their operating environment, eg…

  • What are the most challenging activities or tasks we face as a business?
  • Do I have the right people around me to enable me to delegate those tasks to as needed?
  • If yes, are they ready and do the have the right tools and training? If no, how can I address this?
  • If not, what hires do I need to make?
  • Do I have a good understand of the respective skills, competencies around the business by team member?
  • Do I understand the development areas of each team member based on need and personal aspiration? Do I have effective review cycles in place to ensure we are across this?

So through truly embracing the concept of delegation, a number of good things happen that support a progressive, organic environment where staff are not standing still as commodities, but are engaged for what they could be based on their aspirations. This drives retention culture and enables businesses to progress and grow. Through delegation, managers review their own objectives much more as a business whole, rather than based on subjective self-oriented thinking and this benefits everyone, as well as the bottom line.

Based on my own experiences of 2019 and through seeing how certain team members in particular have progressed, this has been the most enlightening lesson of the year. Perhaps years back, I could have explained what delegation meant and its benefits, but only through putting theory into practice does the penny drop and you truly see the reciprocal, systemic benefits.

I’m looking forward to what can be achieved in 2020 through continuing in this vein.