Delegation: From A to Z

Coaching Focus: engage

Why am I doing this… 

My wife asked,  “If you could teach only one workshop that would have the most impact on leaders’ development, what would it be?”  Having taught for 12 years in multiple MBA programs and worked with thousands of leaders, I have plenty of great content.  but only one topic… what would make the most impact?  I love Listening and Questions …and Feedback… but after thinking about it, what came out was this: “Delegation – without mastering it, no business can scale.”  

… and am I actually the best person for it? 

…so what exactly is Delegation?  If you expect me to give you some textbook definitions… In my world, it is …wait for it… “empoweringothers to do work that needs to be done 😉  The reason I believe it is the most important skill is that it embodies all of the qualities we think so much about.  To engage, the first thing to think about are the elements.  I often think about it as a Rubik’s Cube.  You have Work that needs to be done, you have People to delegate it to (or from), and you have techniques of Communication to get those connected.  Feedback provides the consistent turning of the Cube until the results are achieved.  As with most Leadership competencies, it involves lots of iterations to master, including the other element I always assume but forget to mention – You 😉 

If you are, you are not managing… 

“Delegation is a math problem.  If you can figure out how to have 5 others do the work you could do even 50 % as well as you, you will be 250% more effective.”  That was the way I was welcomed into the ranks of “management.”  Buried in that simple statement are several assumptions that make the math hard… and also, therefore, management 😉  Firstcan you actually communicate, so others understand what you need to be done – such that the overhead is “only” 50%.  And second, that you have enough members of the team to get some benefit from having a larger “team”.  And in those are a couple of key opportunities to improve Delegation…  

… your doing is getting in the way…

…start with: are you clear on WHAT you need?  The actual Task, or better said, particularly if you are working with non-engineers:  the “Solution Opportunity”.  It started with what I now call the “A to Z” approach.  I realized I would ask for A … and get Z.  So after being disappointed, I would realize actually that I didn’t want A… I needed G.  Asking for that I would get T, which was closer, but still not it.  It is M you are going for – halfway from what you thought you wanted… and what the other person delivered.  Buried in this are a number of questions to consider:  are you open to being “wrong” – that you don’t actually want A?  And is the person you are working with worth leveraging their insights.  That is – do you want people to simply do what you want… or are you open to “better”?  And don’t answer too fast…. 

… and may not be playing to everyone’s strength… 

… I was playing in our church band –  and as a Bass player, I was trying to keep time.  Great – except my son was playing drums – and that was “his job” Frankly, he was MUCH better at that than I was.  His “request” came at fairly high volume, but was extremely clear.  Was I open to being better?  Yes – and to do that, I had to let go – 

… which is one of the first tricks of Delegation.  The paradox is that the math is such that you want to end up with Zero – on your plate... and with that work multiplied by those who understand probably better than you what to do, and how to get it done well.  This then makes your plate look 250% what it was... and you can move on to more important things that you should be thinking about.

If you would like to read more about how Delegation really works, our sister site leadingWithMusic has 7 posts with one of the best reminders as the soundtrack – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

If You're A Tech Leader or Organization

We're here for you.  Let's discuss your goals and whether matching you to one of our coaching services is the best way forward.  

No obligation and all information is confidential.