Delegating is the investing of responsibility and authority from you to your subordinates. It creates reserves for you and gives your subordinates a chance to grow. Too often, though, troubles arise because we don't have a clear understanding of how to delegate effectively. Here are some guidelines you might find helpful.
- You can't delegate your own accountability
- Even though you might have delegated something, you remain accountable for it. Your subordinate is accountable to you, but you are still accountable for whatever you delegated.
- Be prepared to rescind
- Sometimes, things don't work out. You might have delegated inappropriately, or your subordinate might fail for some reason. Since you always retain the responsibility to revisit your decision, be prepared to do so, but never rescind without cause.
- Your subordinate has final say
- Even if you believe that your delegation decisions were correct, your subordinates control their own levels of passion and commitment. They might agree to accept what you delegate, but unless they're truly committed, delegation can create trouble.
- Keep your promises
- When what you delegate is unappealing, there's a temptation to promise something in exchange. If you do promise something, keep that promise. If you can't keep the promise, don't make the promise.
- The greater the risk, the more important is delegation
- In risky situations, emergencies can occur, because when things go wrong, they sometimes go wrong in herds. To create reserves to manage these emergencies, delegate.
- Delegate fully
- When you delegate something, delegate it fully. You remain accountable for it, but it's no longer yours. Get out of the way.
- Delegate authority, not just work
- Delegating the work of a task, and not the authority to determine the manner of accomplishing it, can be demoralizing for the subordinate. This is particularly true of tasks requiring creativity, insight, or commitment.
- Never infringe delegated authority
- Infringing delegated You can't delegate
your own accountabilityauthority is demoralizing and creates problems for future delegation. If you feel the need to infringe, but you don't see a need to rescind the delegation, you're probably over the line.
- Have an inform-as-soon-as-you-know norm
- Make an agreement that each of you will inform the other as soon as you learn anything that changes the risk profile of whatever you delegated. Your subordinate agrees to alert you when trouble looms, and you agree to tell your subordinate about any enhanced risks. It's a trusting partnership.
- Establish checkpoint expectations
- Since you remain accountable for whatever you delegated, you have a right to reasonable monitoring of progress. Work out with your subordinate a mutually acceptable set of checkpoints, and stick to them, asking for status reporting neither more frequently nor less frequently than you agreed.
Most important is clear, two-way communication between you and your subordinate. Mutual understanding of your mutual agreement is essential to a successful delegation experience. OK, now. You can take it from here. Top Next Issue
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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- In collaborations, awareness of how our own work might interfere with the work of others is essential. Unless our awareness of others' work — and their awareness of ours — matches reality, the collaboration's objective is at risk. Available here and by RSS on December 25.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.