Are You A Good Delegator?

Are You A Good Delegator?

Are You A Good Delegator?



Many of my clients would self-identify as poor delegators. They often say,

  • “I tried delegating before, but the work wasn’t done on time or to the level I needed so I ended up having to do some of the work myself.”
  • “It is just faster if I do the work myself.”
  • “Delegating just creates more work for me rather than saving me time.”
  • “My team already has too much on their plate, so I don’t want to give them more work.”

It is the job of the leader to get work done through others. This helps your team members to build their professional skills, take on more responsibilities, and facilitates building trust between you and your team. Delegating allows a leader to open space in your calendar to focus on strategic thinking and higher priorities. Delegating is about multiplying the efforts of your team to produce bigger results than you could as an individual.

In the classic book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, he identifies two styles of delegation: “Gopher Delegation and Stewardship Delegation”.

Gopher Delegation involves telling people exactly what to do. Go for this (Gopher), do that, and tell me when you are done.

Stewardship Delegation is about guiding and coaching the person to be successful in achieving the desired results. It isn’t about prescribing how something should get done. Instead, it gives the person autonomy about how they proceed and assigns them responsibility for the results. It does take more time in the beginning, but if you are committed to making the investment, it can yield greater results.

The key to successful Stewardship Delegation per Covey involves co-creating a clear, up-front understanding of what results are expected and nurturing a commitment to the results in the person you are delegating to.

Covey outlined five areas to focus on:

  1. Desired Results – “Create a clear, mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, focusing on what, not how; results, not methods.” Once you have shared the results needed, help your team member to understand the impact of achieving the results. Ask them to describe in their own words what the results will look like. Ask them what their first 1 – 2 steps would be and importantly, set a deadline for accomplishing the results as well as checkpoints along the way.
  2. Guidelines – Give your team member guardrails to operate within. Covey tells a story in his book about a stewardship delegation with his 7-year-old son which involved taking care of the yard. The mantra was “green and clean.” Covey made some suggestions about how his son might achieve these results and he also said his son couldn’t paint the lawn green (guardrail). Covey instructed his son on some pitfalls such as the importance of watering the lawn and then suggested possible options for getting the task done with the caveat that his son should decide what method he thinks is best. If you know the failure paths of the job, share them so that your team member can learn from yours and others’ mistakes.
  3. Resources – Identify what resources the person can tap into to accomplish the desired results. This might include people, budget, technical tools, or other resources.
  4. Accountability – One of the steps that is often missed is identifying what expectations you have for the results. This can include the quality of the work, a deadline for the results, and checkpoints along the way to check on progress and catch possible missteps before they become bigger problems.
  5. Consequences – When discussing the evaluation of the work, identify what the impact will be if the work is done well and what might happen if it is not. Consider what incentives you might offer and also outline the downside of a poor result.

Most of us could benefit from stronger delegation skills whether you are a team leader, a volunteer, or running a household. You will do yourself and the person to whom you are delegating a great service by strengthening those muscles.

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Welcome to the Listening to the Leader in You Blog

Super-leaders arm themselves with insight. This blog is where you’ll find concepts, ideas, resources and more for honing your full set of leadership capabilities. 
Lynn Schaber, MCC
For the past 20 years, I’ve been privileged to partner with individuals intent on cracking the code to leadership beyond the ordinary.