Leaders and delegation/Diriger et deleguer.

Author:Crosbie, Rowena

Clean your room. Please, clean your room. I'll pay you to clean your room. You can't go out until you clean your room ...

Rewards, punishments, begging, nagging ... Why is it so challenging to get people to do things?

Delegation, whether at work or at home, is an area where many leaders struggle.

What if they don't do it right?

What if they mess it up?

What if they don't get it done at all?

What if the outcome is not up to my standards?

It's often hard to relinquish control. Others may not do it 'our way'. Many times it seems more expedient (and simpler) to do the work ourselves. Rather than learning to delegate effectively, we work longer hours.

When done well, delegation benefits everyone. Leaders free up time for other activities. Followers grow and contribute. Organizations achieve more. Sadly, many of us have never learned how to delegate well and we stress over whether the delegated task will get done right, or at all.

Here are some fast tips.

Prior to delegating, leaders must correctly diagnose two areas: skills and interest. If someone knows how to do the task and likes it, delegation is appropriate. If one of those two variables is lacking, a different leadership action is needed.


As leaders, we often make too many assumptions about what people can do and what they know (or should know).

Let's return to the 'clean your room' example. It is common for parents to believe that their young person already possesses the necessary skills for this job. Do they? Really?

Why would a young person know how to clean a room well? Why would they share the same definition of 'clean' that a parent does? If you have ever been met with the response "I did clean it" and the result doesn't meet your standards, chances are that there is a skill or knowledge gap. Delegation wasn't appropriate.

In the business world, how can a leader know if someone possesses the necessary skills and knowledge? One approach is to talk to the employee and seek his or her input. When doing so, it is wise for leaders to be cautious and remember that it is common for employees to underestimate what a task involves if they have never done it before and/or overestimate their own skills and abilities. Unless you've observed them successfully carrying out the task in the past (or a very similar one), the possession of skills and knowledge may be unknown.

While assessing technical abilities can often be easily done, assessing intangible skills can be more challenging. We sometimes assume that an individual should know how to handle a conflict because we have observed that they know how to communicate. The skills to handle unproductive emotions in a conflict and the skills to transmit information are different. Similarly, we sometimes mistakenly assume that extraverted people are skilled in sales. The skills to facilitate the sales process and the skills to facilitate a conversation are very different. Leaders who correctly diagnose the precise skill sets required to successfully carry out a task will find that they make fewer errors on this component of delegation.

When someone lacks skills or knowledge in any measure, delegation is risky.



If they have the skills and knowledge, can the leader delegate? It depends. Do they also possess sufficient interest and motivation?

A common approach to motivating people is to reward them for the behaviours you want to...

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