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Chris LoCurto


July 29, 2013

4 Steps To Proper Delegation

Proper delegation is one of the most jacked up concepts in business.

Chris LoCurto, Leadership, Business, Strategic Planning

We think delegating is giving someone a task and expecting that they do it. Here’s why that doesn’t work:

You’re overloaded with stuff so you decide to take something off your plate. You find somebody to give it to & wait for them to either do it very well (and make you happy) or screw it up totally. They screw up & now you have to take it back & do it yourself.

Here’s the crazy thing, that’s what most people think delegation is. Know why? I’ve said it & I’ll say it again:

“Who taught you? You learned to (fill in the blank) from the leaders before you.”  

So change it. The proper way to delegate is to not just hand off a task. Instead, your job as a leader is to set your team up for success.

A while ago I interviewed Stephen MR Covey and one of the great things that he said about delegation was,

“Don’t just delegate tasks but delegate the results as well.”

When you only delegate tasks then that’s what people are going to get done. When you delegate the results they’ll look to fill in the gaps; the things that they haven’t been told to do.

Now, this can take some time. It is a long process but it’s a fantastic process when you do it correctly. When you’re ready to hand off a task, make sure that you’ve answered every single question your team member may have. Give them every tool that they need. Whatever it is, you’re constantly going to them & doing what I call the correct way of micromanaging.

Micromanaging is usually a bad word in the business world because it represents “Hey, did you get that done?” or “Why hasn’t that happened yet?”

Instead, for me, micromanaging is crucial to proper delegation. It’s coming alongside somebody & asking a few simple questions:

  • “Is there anything I can do for you?”
  • “Are there any questions you have?”
  • “Are there any tools you need?”
  • “Does everything about this make sense?”

If you will do this with your team members, if you will make sure they’re taken care of & made to be successful, than eventually, they will actually be successful in the process.

In Ken Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager, he talks about being able to lead a team so well that literally you only have to spend a minute with them. When you do a great job of making your team successful in their processes, in their day-to-day tasks, so much so that they completely understand what they're supposed to do, they do it.

As I write this, I realize some of you might be thinking, “I have absolutely no time to do this.” That's probably true, but it’s your fault because you’ve waited too long to delegate properly. Now you're stressed out, you’ve got too many things on your plate and you’ve got to do something about it.

Don’t turn to the closest person and hand something off if you don’t have the time to make them successful in the process. I can promise you they will fail. You’ll take the project or task back & add it back into your pile of things that have to get done. Guess what? You’re still overloaded. That is exactly why delegating correctly is so important.

I love the the lesson of “The Law of The Lid” in John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow YouYou put a lid on your own organization when you stop growing. You have to make sure that you're spending time pouring back into yourself because your team as a whole cannot grow passed you. Start investing in yourself by taking the time to properly delegate to your team.

Question: What are you doing to grow as a leader?

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  • Jorge Silvestrini

    I think my boss reads your blog! Truly awesome…

  • Steve Pate

    Still one of my favorite English words! Thanks for a great post!

  • Michael

    I’ve learned from you and others that the quality of the answers that a person gives depends on the quality of the questions.

  • Tanya

    Thanks Chris, good advice. Asking the four questions you listed opens the door to clear and candid communication. Clarity regarding the task and the results is ultimately what makes delegation successful.

    • Jon D Harrison

      So true Tanya – clarity makes all the difference. One of the top reasons why employees are not doing what they should be doing, is because they think they are already doing it!

  • Mark Sieverkropp

    Great post Chris!

    Sadly, I’m actually watching my last boss’ business slowly deteriorate due to a horrible lack of correct delegation. He hired a general manager and put him in charge without training him in how he wanted the business ran.
    The boss is a friend of mine and its sad to watch. But that’s the results of not delegating properly!

  • Lance Cashion

    A great reminder that I’m out of practice. I’ve been a one man operator of my business for about two years. However, I have been directing a new ministry at our church as of late and I little coaching in this area is a big help.

    Plus, I find that in my line of work I must delegate tasks to my clients in order to actually complete transactions. Setting expectations and healthy delegation are keys to hitting the target with folks.

    Thanks Chris and I hope the new venture is moving ahead!

  • Laura Johnson

    Love this post! Too many leaders delegate incorrectly and then put all the blame on the person they delegated to. If the leader delegates correctly they’ve enabled the other person to grow and experience more responsibility, which can be very empowering.
    At more than one job I have been delegated to and when I respond by asking a couple clarifying questions, they say, I wish I had the time to answer your questions, but I believe in you. And they leave. I’m pretty perceptive so I’ll make judgment calls based on several different preceding experiences, and I get close enough to the result they want that they’re happy. There have been times though when they’ll come to me and ask why I did something and tell me it should have been handled a different way, based on a factor I wasn’t even aware of.
    So yes, delegating correctly is important to those you lead. It can be pretty discouraging to be “found at fault” for something that was not your fault, especially when you tried to figure things out in the beginning.
    Don’t lose your, as Chris would call them, rockstars.

    • Steve Pate

      True that Laura, on your first paragraph.

  • Brian Horvath

    I used to think that was delegation was simply handing the task off to the next available person. Thank you Chris for challenging us to ask better questions of our team to not only decipher who is best at handling what, but empowering them by example to do the same with those who they are leading. This is a timely post as I am currently audio-reading John Maxwell’s “The 360 Leader”.

    Keep up the good work and pouring into us!

    • Jon D Harrison

      Brian – How awesome is the 360 Leader? I’m about 2/3rds through the book, and it is solid!

  • PeaceofMindVA

    Chris, thank you thank you for your post! I live in the land of delegation (I own a Virtual Assistance firm). Typically our clients are leaders who are ready to let go and delegate. However at times we have to remind them to give us the information/tools that will help us complete our tasks/projects so we can achieve our ultimate goal…de-stressing our clients, freeing them up to do tasks they enjoy – revenue generating activities.

  • Jana Botkin

    Those are helpful questions when asked with the intent to answer or follow through. Too many bosses ask those questions and then fail to provide the help or information or tools needed or promised. Cynical? Yes, i am.I have had TERRIBLE bosses in the past. I LOVE self-employment!

  • Lily Kreitinger

    Right now I’m in the middle of a delegation experience. It has been tough. I’ve tried to provide assistance, be available for help when needed. My team mate had a couple of rough reviews last week on the project he is working on. One was with our client and the other one was with me. It was not pretty. As I read through this questions, I realized that I have taken the right steps to help him succeed. He didn’t perceive it this way. He feels he is being attacked. I ended my last conversation with “I want you to be successful and I believe in you”. My leaders are great at delegation, providing both the responsibility and the support I need. I hope to follow in those footsteps and help my team mate succeed as well. Great topic!!

    • Joshua Rivers

      Awareness is a huge key step!

    • Jon D Harrison

      Lily – good move letting your teammate know your motives. Since it is easy to misjudge others’ motives, letting them know that they have your support is a step closer to the goal.

      I’ve also learned that sometimes it is helpful to let other know what my intentions are NOT.

      “I’m not saying that you are incapable of doing this project – what I am saying is that I want you to be as successful here as I have seen you be with other projects..”

  • Joshua Rivers

    This is absolutely true. I love those questions that you should ask, because I’ve seen too many “leaders” assign a task and walk away. The person is then left unsure of exactly what is expected or doesn’t have the resources to accomplish it well.

    Part of proper delegation is making sure that you are giving it to the right person – not just the closest person or the person that’s available right now. Like you mention, it then takes that time upfront to train them (not just tell them or even train them). In the long run, you help them to become better and increase your time and ability to move forward.

    • Jon D Harrison

      Joshua, very key point! Giving the task to the right person is a huge part of delegation – another reason leaders should be invested and know the strengths of their team!

  • Jon D Harrison

    Delegation is an investment, to be sure! It is easy to dismiss handling delegation the right way by saying “I don’t have the time,” but this only leads to a more difficult lesson:

    If you don’t have the time to delegate correctly, you absolutely don’t have the time to clean up after delegating incorrectly.

    • Joshua Rivers

      Absolutely true! It’s difficult sometimes to see the big picture, though, and to take the “easy” way.

    • Mark Sieverkropp

      “Delegation is an investment.” I like that Jonathan!

      • Jon D Harrison

        Thanks Mark – BTW, I love what you and Scott are doing at HTYC!

        • Mark Sieverkropp

          Thanks Jon! Have you checked out the campaign page yet?

  • Dave Bratcher

    Excellent tips Chris! This is extremely important and helpful. I have failed to delegate the results over and over again. What ends up happening is begin to try and do everything by myself, due to the results I received from delegating tasks in the past. Thanks for helping me put it into perspective and be more effective next time.