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Leadership Lesson #7: Delegate - But Do it Right

by George Virtue, CPA, CA, Managing Partner

If you are like me, your life would be much easier if you just had more time. Here’s a news flash – there are 24 hours in every day and no one can make more time. But you can use your time more effectively. And that requires effective delegation.

Most of us spend a lot of our valuable time doing things that others could do. It is critical that we use our precious time effectively by doing what we do best and delegating other tasks to others. The problem is that most of us are too busy doing everything ourselves to delegate. When I learned the secrets of effective delegation, I found more time in my schedule to do the things I loved; I empowered my people to take on new challenging tasks; I reduced my level of stress; and became generally more effective. Let me share those “secrets” that I learned.

Often we do not delegate because it is quicker to do it ourselves. While this is true, it does not help us when the situation arises again in the future. Not taking the time to delegate, we continue the cycle of doing work that someone else should be doing. When we finally do decide to delegate, the next error we make is to “dump and run: we give a task to someone else without adequate thought, preparation and communication. Not surprisingly, when the task does not get done according to our standards we blame it on delegation – and justify our decision to avoid delegation in the future! 

So how do we stop the doomed loop of poor delegation leading to failed delegation leading to no delegation? Here are a few tips:

  1. Invest a bit of time to determine who the best person to delegate the task to is.
  2. Determine the exact task that you want to delegate.
  3. Be specific with the item frame and deadlines.
  4. Define the level of authority that you are delegating – do you want the person to simply examine a problem and get back to you, to make a recommendation to you, to determine a solution and get approval from you, to implement a solution, to keep you in the loop or to leave you alone?
  5. Agree and clearly communicate checkpoints along the way to review progress.
  6. Hold those to whom you delegated the task accountable. Gain their commitment to the assignment before you delegate the task clearly explain your expectations.
  7.  Follow up after the task is competed so that you can learn how to delegate more effectively in the future.

Of course, this takes time that we don’t have, so we are left with yet another of those short term pain vs. long term gain decisions. Do we invest time in the short term to “effectively” delegate so that we can free up time in the long term to be better leaders?  Although I hope the answer to this question is an obvious “yes”, I continue to see leaders who beg for more time but are not willing to invest in delegation. I hope that you are not one of them.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of Leadership Lesson #7: Delegate - But Do it Right

Click here to read Leadership Lesson #6: Understand the Power of Conflict
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #5: Build a Real Team
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #4: Choose Your Culture
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #3: Figure Out Where You Want to Go and How You Will Get There
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #2: Make Sure that Everyone (Including You) is Doing the Right Job
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #1: Get the Right People on the Team

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