Delegate or relegate

It literally is impossible, when in a senior management position, to do everything yourself. You either delegate the task or you effectively relegate it. 

One of the hardest things to do is to master the art of delegation, especially when you find yourself in a position of leadership. Normally, you get to the top by becoming a master of your area and more often than not you achieve this by doing things yourself. 

Yet when you reach a senior management position you start to realise that your time is a scarce resource and a very precious one. Therefore, you must delegate to junior managers, otherwise you won’t cope. If you don’t delegate and try to do everything yourself, you will eventually hit a brick wall. 

It literally is impossible, when in a senior management position, to do everything yourself. You either delegate the task or you effectively relegate it. 

Before the naysayers speak out, I know what some of you are thinking: If I have to show someone how to do something, wouldn’t it just be quicker to do it myself?  Or, if it takes others more than once to get it right, not to mention a lot of frustrating moments ‘explaining’ and ‘re-explaining’, am I not better off just doing it myself? 

Your primary responsibility is to teach people how to think by themselves and it is equally important to encourage them to ask the right questions. You do this, so as to develop your team members. Sure, they will make mistakes at first crack but if they have the right aptitude they will learn and quickly amass the necessary learning so as to be able to do it themselves. 

The problem with many control freaks and perfectionists, in positions of power, is that they do the thinking for their people, which makes the same people overly dependent on their leader. This is why you must develop your people and encourage them to think for themselves. You can tell them where you want to go but let them think of a way of getting you there. This is why I like inquisitive and intellectually curious people in any team and you need these people if you want to delegate successfully.  

Delegation is hugely underestimated in organisations yet it is precisely the factor ‘X’ which makes organisations beyond the size of say 20+ employees operate effectively. An organisation with a chain of command only works if there is delegation. Sure, trust and accountability come with delegation but if we don’t delegate we cannot benefit from the economies of scale and power of an organisation. 

Ultimately, we are all thrust in a position of power to achieve something more than just profits. We are thrust in a position of power to also nurture our organisation’s future managers and leaders and the best way we can do this is by delegating power and authority. Similarly, an organisation can only maximise its potential if the leaders within it learn the art of delegation. 

For the record, delegation is not to be confused with abdication. As a leader you still need to be kept in the loop and at key stages of the decision making process. The difference is that you are empowering your people to think through problems and making them accountable for their results. This is why performance evaluation is fundamental to any successful organisation. No employee should be able to hide and everyone must be held accountable for his or her decisions and actions. 

If you are deluding yourself that this article doesn’t concern you, why don’t you ask yourself if the statements below apply to your situation: 

1.    You are never completely satisfied with the deliverables of your people; 

2.    You are obsessed with details and take great satisfaction from correcting other people’s work; 

3.    You constantly want to know what everyone is working on; 

4.    You expect to be c.c.’d on everything; 

5.    You work longer hours than the people who report to you. 

If you answered ‘true’ to most of the above statements you are a micro-manager who struggles to delegate and as a result of this you are not maximising your chances of success. 

Was it Aristotle who said, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’? Well, when you delegate you make the whole greater than the sum of its parts and this is precisely the point I am trying to make. If you can’t delegate effectively, you are doomed to always relegate tasks because you can’t do everything yourself and your people will never learn to do things for you. 

In the words of John C. Maxwell: “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” I rest my case. 

Delegate or relegate. It is your choice.

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