The Vital Element of Delegation

By Martin Haworth
Martin Haworth

In a recent interview, Ron Dennis of the McLaren Formula 1 team said:

"I'm the executive chairman, but if I delegate a role, I'll step away & let that person get on with it".

Delegation is all about clearing our own desks of the 'stuff' that comes at us and giving the tasks to others. We do this for a number of vital reasons:

1. We delegate to others strengths

Low confidence is one of the biggest challenges that organizations face. Helping others to see their greatnesses is a big step on the way.

So we give them work they are good at, love to do and can deliver perhaps even better than we can ourselves.

'Catching others doing things right', is a great mantra for any manager or leader.

2. We delegate to others weaknesses

Now, where this works it's a great solution on all sides. When we show confidence in others to develop their weaker skills - as long as we hold their hand on the way - it builds capability and also team capacity.

Care is needed that we acknowledge exactly where these are not weaknesses just because they haven't had the time to develop - they simply are a weakness.

And we don't push something that will only reduce confidence and a sense of failure.

3. We delegate our own weaknesses

Why struggle with talents we don't have? Where we know that we simply aren't good at some things why keep trying?

Great leaders give their own areas of absolute weakness or ineffectiveness to others who are not only more capable, but also will benefit from showing their capability too.

4. We delegate our own strengths

Of course there are some elements of work where our role requires our personal skills and usually leaders are recruited because they are good at it.

Where succession planning, employee development and motivation would find it valuable, delegation of areas where a leader is very skilled is a worthwhile activity.

It also helps leaders from staying within their own comfort zone too - just doing what they are good at - which can be synonymous with what they 'like' to do.

5. We delegate to develop people

We might pick out specific activities that we usually deliver ourselves and pro-actively choose people who would benefit from having these delegated to.

This is part of structured development planning where the delegation is a focused 'gift' from the leader to the individual.

6. We delegate for efficiency

As highly paid leaders, we can, of course, choose what we do. Because of this, we need to be fully focused to ensure our organization gets full value from the higher reward the role gives to us individually.

In effect, we delegate everything we possibly can where - very honestly - we decide whether an activity can be delegated with no loss of performance in the organization - sometimes in the longer- rather than the shorter-term.

We can then get on with our own job description and let others get to theirs.

A couple of final key points on delegation

Whilst it's all about delegating and leave them alone to get on with it, there is a rider to this. Be there, at least at first where they might need support. Delegation is not about closing the door and letting them struggle.

Great leaders keep a watchful, supportive and yet distant eye on those to whom they have delegated.

How far can you go with delegation? Well, probably much further than you think.

Martin Haworth is an experienced UK-based coach and trainer with TNM Coaching, working worldwide with enlightened organisations who see the light in leadership and management development.