When I was younger, cutting corners on a job for my dad never saved me any time. You see, Dad had a knack for detail and process, and he wanted me to get it right the first time versus getting it done quickly. He held me to a high standard in my performance, whether plumbing a wooden post, cutting the grass, or cleaning the floor. I watched him and learned what right looked like, and when he was sure I knew the standard and the “why” behind it, I was on my own to do the job—correctly.
It would have been quicker and, in some ways, easier for dad to do whatever job he gave me. However, he invested in me and intentionally delegated tasks to teach me principles I could apply later in life.
As professional bosses, it can be easier to do things ourselves, right? We save time and get things done “right” the first time. It feels good as well; we experience an ego boost and personal satisfaction from accomplishing a task. This may feel good and right, but, as a leader, it can be very misleading and quite damaging to our team.
When leaders fail to delegate, it creates a vacuum of talent development below and sends a message that they are the “single point of failure” who can fix everything and come up with the solution in a bind. At some point, a leader who fails to delegate gets caught up in the trees of the hectic busyness of the day. They then fail to see the strategic pathway through the forest.
According to billionaire CEO Eli Broad, the inability to delegate is the single-biggest weak point for most managers. As leaders, we are paid to set strategies and visualize future outcomes based on risk and opportunity. With careful and proper delegation of routine tasks, leaders can gain the time and energy it takes to think critically and develop a plan to have the advantage versus “fighting the fires” evident when leaders fail to think critically.
At Solutions 21, we use the Six Rights of Delegation to help leaders properly think through how to delegate responsibly:
- The right result – You know the result you want and can articulate it.
- The right reason – You clearly explained the “why” behind the assignment.
- The right parameters – You outlined the guardrails in which the person can operate.
- The right person – You delegated the task to the person best equipped to accomplish it.
- The right direction – You provided the timeline and milestones to guide the process to completion.
- The right support – You provided the resources necessary for the individual to complete the task.
Following these “6 Rights,” a leader intentionally provides the guidance necessary to engage their associates’ creative talent and mind-power. It takes time and some planning to delegate well, and leaders who delegate well raise both the capacity and capability of their organization. As famous GE CEO Jack Welch states, “Everybody’s got to feel like a participant. And you find ways to include everybody in the party in some way.”
Dad taught me not to cut corners and do the job right the first time. He did this because he cared about my development. He invested in delegating well to build a work ethic within me and raise my problem-solving capacity. As leaders, we owe the same to our associates.