“The secret of success is not in doing your own work, but in recognising the right person to do it.”
– Andrew Carnegie
The great American businessman and philanthropist died almost 100 year ago
yet these powerful words still ring true today. The Art of Delegation is
something that great leaders do well, yet so many of us waste such time and
effort trying to complete countless tasks when the answer is usually right in
front of us, find someone else who can complete the task, so you can get on
with what you are supposed to be doing.
Have you heard the story of the airline pilot who could not delegate? One day
he was flying a large Airbus from London to New York. Over 200 passengers
and crew on board. Halfway through the flight he received a call from his
senior cabin steward. “We have a problem in the passenger toilets sir, they’re
all backing up and over-flowing!” The pilot turned to his co-pilot, “Don’t touch
anything!” he commanded.” I’ll be right back.”
He jumped out of his seat and raced down the gangway of the plane towards
the toilet, grabbing a plunger from the steward on the way. For 10 minutes the
pilot was in the toilets, trying feverishly to unblock the toilet as three or four of
the cabin staff stood around him watching, until one of them turned to the
other and said “Who’s flying the plane?”
The story of course is fictitious, but how many former or current managers or
bosses can you identify as the pilot of that plane? And why do they find it so
hard to delegate their work to others?
So why do people find delegating so hard?
The first reason is simple; it’s too hard and it takes too much time. Why waste
time teaching someone else to do the job when I can do it myself? Right? Fine,
until your workload increases to the point where you can no longer complete
all of these jobs. When this happens, and you haven’t spent the time training
someone to take on some of this workload, you will find yourself in real
trouble, real quick. The short term pain of teaching somebody else to complete
a task is well worth the long term gain of you not having to worry about that
task ever again.
The second reason is always a popular one with the more egotistical managers
out there; “Nobody can do it as well as I can.”
But maybe they can. They just needed you to teach them! Great leaders recognise that they are not always
going to be the expert in the room at everything. As another great American
businessman of this century, Jack Welch, says;
“I was never the smartest guy in the room. From the first person I hired, I
was never the smartest guy in the room. And that’s a big deal. And if you’re
going to be a leader – if you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the
world – in the room, you’ve got real problems.”
So why delegate? Well, managers who don’t delegate effectively invariably end
up tired and overworked, and often that results in them leaving their job or
being replaced because they are unable to stay on top of their workload. When
they leave, guess what? Nobody has the knowledge or the experience to carry
on. The biggest problem however, is their staff become frustrated and feel
powerless because they are not contributing. One of the biggest reasons why
staff make a decision to change their job is because they feel they are not
learning and they are not contributing to the team effort.
So if you recognise the pilot of that plane, maybe it’s someone you work with,
maybe it’s something you recognise in yourself, introduce them to IDEALS –
the 6 step guide for how to delegate effectively.
I – Introduce the task. Determine which of your tasks can be delegated and
which ones cannot and identify the team member/s to delegate them to.
D – Demonstrate clearly what needs to be done. Show examples of previous
work, explain the objectives, set your expectations of how the task should be
completed and discuss timeframes and deadlines.
E– Ensure Understanding. Ask for clarification of what you are asking them to
do. Secure their commitment and determine how you will follow up on their
A – Allocate authority, information and resources. Give them the authority to
complete the task. Provide them with the relevant information and give them
the correct training.
L– Let’s Go! Communicate the team member’s authority to the rest of the
team. Step back and watch them work!
S– Support and monitor. Schedule follow up meetings to review their progress,
assist when requested, avoid interference and praise progress!
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