Do you Dump or Delegate?

Dumping-off.  We ask others to do stuff for us all the time – stuff we don’t want to do, don’t have the time to do, and couldn’t do even if we had the time.  We drop our suits off for pressing (a task we can’t do), our car for an oil change (a task we don’t have time to do), and our children for learning chemistry (a task we don’t know how to do).

We dump it off, move on, don’t think about what we dumped off until we pick it up later. Dumping off is not delegating.

Right reasons.  Let’s own up to why you and I don’t delegate. We say… (1) I’m used to doing it. (2) It’s easier for me to do it. (3) It takes too long to explain to someone what I want. (4) I don’t think they’ll do it right and I’ll probably have to do it over anyway. (5) I don’t want to ask someone to do it because I already don’t like doing it and why would I have them do something I think is unsavory?

These are the right reasons for someone whose role does not include developing others.  However, because a leader’s role is always to develop people (oh, did you forget?), being an effective delegator is essential.

I consider dumping/dropping off to be a transactional conversation and effective delegating a transformational conversation.

Delegating.  Effective delegation requires a partnership. It is the intentional act of giving someone the power and support to do something that you are accountable for. When we delegate, we ask the person to think, act and produce a result.

Right Commitment. Being an effective delegator – meaning: the task you delegated gets done to your satisfaction  – is not about getting your stuff done by others. It’s about building the capacity of others.  As with any developmental process, effective delegation takes time and requires understanding what it takes for someone to act and think from your perspective. It takes a commitment to build leaders around you.

I’ve expanded Susan M. Heathfield’s (an about.com guide) take on this topic:

7 Steps for Effective Delegation

  1. Why me? Tell the person why you chose them. What’s in it for them?
  2. Give them the whole task. If you can’t give them the whole task, give them the whole picture so they can see how their part contributes to the whole.
  3. Be clear about (a) what you want them to do, what the outcome should look like; (b) a “how to” if it is relevant for success, including if you need to know progress, specify what you need to know and by when.
  4. Share what you know that works. If you foresee potential bumps in the road, tell them what they can do if encountered.
  5. Create a structure for success: (a) Ask them what support they need and provide it; (b) Connect with others they can contact for support; tell the support people who will be acting on your behalf. Do not leave it to the delegate to make this connection; (c) Be available.
  6. Thank them personally, publicly and appropriately when task is done.
  7. Debrief. Ask what they learned, request feedback on process. Share what you learned and what might be next in your partnership.

Choose when to drop-off and when to delegate.  As the delegator, you are still responsible and accountable for the result whether your hand did it or not (oh, did you forget this part?). How you respond to the result not being delivered as requested will speak as loudly as your acknowledgement that it did … perhaps, even more so.

Regardless of the size of your organization, whether everyone’s co-located or dispersed, or spread out around the world, effective delegation builds capacity to perform for both the delegator and delegatee’s and that’s a leadership move for everyone.

Need to be better at not just talking, but in having your team act on what you say? You can. Take an online assessment and have a 1on1 coaching session with me to learn the elements in effective communication.

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