When You Delegate You Develop Leaders

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When you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many projects and tasks, do you ask yourself what can I delegate?

When leaders become busy they often deploy the “just say no” strategy and stop taking on any new work. That is one way to cope. However, most leaders don’t want to say “no”, they want to be able to seize opportunities that arise and achieve more. One way to make that happen is to develop the people around you so they can achieve more.

Delegation is the most powerful tool you have in developing the people around you to achieve more. Often, we avoid delegation because we feel no one can do the job as well as us. Yet truly great leaders focus on developing others to be able do the work just as well as them, or better. And that is why learning to be effective at delegation is a key skill for every leader. 

The first step is to see delegation as a transfer of decision-making authority. Though you still have ultimate accountability for the outcome, the person you delegate to has authority to make decisions to achieve that outcome.

I once heard a senior leader use a toilet analogy for delegation. Toilets around the world all look different and have different parts, but they all produce the same outcome. Delegation means letting go of the fact that they may not do the work exactly how you would do it.  If the other person is clear on what the outcome is and which decisions they can make along the way, then you’ve delegated successfully – ta da!

Okay, I realize it’s not so easy. Here are a few great articles on the art and science of delegation that offer some practical tips:
•    Why Aren’t You Delegating?, Harvard Business Review
•    Grow Your Ability to Delegate, An Interview with Halley Bock of Fierce Inc.
•    The Delegation Dilemma: How Nonprofit Leaders Can Learn to Let Go, The Bridgespan Group

What project could you delegate, right now – and to whom? A wealth of talent surrounds you in your employees, your board members, and your volunteers. Sit down and talk with them about what they currently see you doing that they would be interested in taking responsibility for. You might be surprised by what you discover!

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll share a tool to identify opportunities to delegate the right work to the right person.

About the Author

Annastasia Forst contributed her creative and analytic work ethic (not an oxymoron) to Vantage Point as a past Director of Learning. She is passionate about working with many talented knowledge philanthropists to develop, deliver and evaluate Vantage Point’s board and executive leadership...


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