This Delegation Formula Will Make You a Better Leader

A delegation has always been simple.

Never easy.

Simple.

Today we’ll melt down the intricate details of good delegation and pour it into a simple formula.

Onward.

“What’s your best piece of delegation advice?”

Ask 3 great leaders about delegation, and you’ll get 3 outstanding but different answers:

Don’t be a bottleneck. Find problem areas, add structure and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it.

-Donald Rumsfeld

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men and women to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

—Teddy Roosevelt

Intelligent delegation is only possible if the warlord knows the capabilities of his men. He must also know their limitations.

— Sun Tzu

So there’s the million dollar question.

What is Good Delegation?

We can all agree on this much:

1. There’s no such thing as sustainable growth without delegation.

2. The first step is choosing the right people.

3. Every leader has weaknesses that can be “patched” through wise delegation.

4. Good delegation gets the job done; great delegation creates amazing leaders who get more jobs done better.

But there’s so much more.

Anyway. You want to be a great delegator. Like every great leader has done at some or many points in their life.

This is how.

Your People Can’t be You

“People and organizations don’t grow much without delegation and completed staff work because they are confined to the capacities of the boss and reflect both personal strengths and weaknesses.”

— Stephen Covey

“If people would just do everything I say, exactly how I say it — this company would be unstoppable.”

I know I’ve been guilty of thinking that.

But the truth is, I don’t want a swarm of me-clones. 

If I forced people to try to lead, work, and do everything exactly like me, I’d doom them to miserable failure. Because we’re all wired differently, and they need to be able to think for themselves.

It would take away their ownership of the slice of territory I entrusted them with.

And nothing chokes passion for work and productivity like taking ownership from people by pushing them into a mold of you where they’ll never fit. It’s not micromanagement, but people would see it as that.

Unfortunately, perceived micromanagement does the same damage. Which brings us to our next topic.

Micromanagement vs Common Sense

Sadly, micromanage has become a whiny sort of word that inflexible children with authority issues use.

Sure, the art of delegation is more than simply getting good at telling people what to do.

And yes, you have to let people drive their own bus to the best result.

But you can’t just laissez-faire your delegation and expect the cards to fall into seamless order.

Walking the fine line between over-management and total anarchy is probably the hardest part of a delegation.

Certain tasks require a heavy amount of management. And that’s 100% okay.

Here are a few examples of things that may require heavy involvement:

► Job costing for the first time.

► Pretty much everything you’re teaching someone for the first time.

► Big-impact things that you only do once or twice a year, like executing year-end financials.

► Large events and things that eat a lot of money.

► Most of the Big 5 — Labor, materials, salaries, vehicle expense, and advertising.

Most of these things absorb a large portion of your budget. So unless you have someone on board that you trust as much as yourself, it’s okay to be heavily involved.

It’s Not Micromanagement

Let me be clear.

Heavy involvement is NOT micromanagement. But it can be seen that way if you don’t communicate effectively, and perception is a reality.

Let’s talk about how to avoid being perceived as a micromanager.

Yes, it’s important. And yes, it shouldn’t be. They should just get the job done, period. Right?

Yes.

But this is the cold reality.

If you’re seen as a micromanager, or a control freak, or any of those false excuses the fragile use to write off strong leadership, you’ll get less good work out of your employees.

What do you do to kill off micromanagement and other forms of poor perception?

Ironically, logical communication (you’ll see why that’s ironic in the Emotional Intelligence section).

Tell them that certain things require your heavy involvement.

Tell them there are certain things you want and NEED to hand over to them completely. Good communication kills off false perceptions and the whiny bitterness attached to them.

That’s where the delegation of authority comes into play.

Delegate Authority, Not Just Tasks

“If you delegate tasks, you create followers. If you delegate authority, you create leaders.”

— Craig Groeschel

Be specific. Discuss which is which if you can. Then stick to it as much as possible.

Certain tasks are a waste of time for you. Knowing which ones to invest the bulk of your time into and which to delegate is a balancing act mastered by a microscopic portion of the leaders in the world.

Never undermine your leaders by managing their employees. Delegate authority, not just tasks. They need to run their piece of the territory they’ve earned your trust in.

If you run it for them, your good leaders will leave, and only the sheep will stay.

Clear communication is key.

Everything that is delegated must be supervised. Even and especially the authority you delegate.

Set firm and clear deadlines and follow up on them. Consistently review the KPI’s you set and coach your leaders to coach their employees to hit and surpass them. Hold them to their numbers.

This is how you instill discipline through your delegation.

Discipline/ self-control is the logic that guides emotion.

Always, always follow up on what you’ve delegated and enforce nothing but the highest of standards.

Emotional Intelligence

Perceptions can warp and twist your culture, or shape it into exactly what you want it to be.

Perceptions trigger emotions, good and bad. Emotions play a big role in fueling work and performance.

Remember how logical communication wards off poor perceptions?

This is why that’s so important.

Your employees (like everyone) make the bulk of their decisions based on emotions, and then justify those decisions with logic.

Some say that love is the fuel of humanity. Others would argue that fear holds more power.

They both play a huge role in a delegation. (When I say “love,” understand that I “love” my wife, but I also “love” Thai food. Love for your work and responsibilities falls somewhere between those two.)

The most effective tool in managing the weak is fear. Fear drives the weak and controls them. But we’ll leave that to Machiavelli.

Let’s assume you’ve hired good, strong employees.

What keeps good employees chugging away like a well-oiled machine?

► Feeling like you trust them.

► Feeling like you set the world on their shoulders and they bore it like the little Hercules they think they are.

► Feeling valued, accepted, important — all of that warm and fuzzy gunk nobody wants to think about.

You see where this is going.

That’s the fragile reality of human nature.

The Delegation Formula

Now here’s the good news.

Manage their perceptions and you’ve won half the battle. Manage their emotions and you’ve won the other half.

Just remember the delegation success formula and you can’t go wrong:

1. Communicate wisely. Choose the right words to shape their perceptions as well as the emotions they trigger.

2. Coach consistently. Use logic and discipline to guide and enforce the actions driven by their perceptions and emotions.

3. Step back and let them drive. If you’ve done well, they’ll drive their slice of the territory to the pinnacle of success.

Good delegation is entrusting responsibility to another through the art of communicating in a way that enhances perception, discipline, emotion, and performance. Great delegation is teaching them to lead in like manner.