Recently, I have been playing with various clients around the theme of delegation. My main reason for getting up in the mornings involves developing leaders and managers to be their best versions of themselves so the get the best possible outcomes from their people, for their business - so delegation is kind of topical, because it's what effective managers "do".
However, in my experience, it is easier said than done and I will admit to finding it a pretty significant challenge to do myself. This challenge presents itself in many ways for different people - and it does all boil down in the end to our individual self concept and latent fears about not being in control, consequences of mistakes or failure, not trusting ourselves to trust others and a personal cocktail of stuff that gets in the way...so being aware of some of those limitations is helpful, but may not always be necessary.
I think that we could make it easier by recognising that delegation - like so many management and leadership concepts - is contextual. It depends strongly on what it is that needs to be delegated, by who, to who and with what constraints and resources.
You can't take a photograph of delegation or, as Colin Blundell, my first and much loved NLP and Enneagram Teacher would say "you can't put it in a wheelbarrow". Therefore it is an abstract concept and worthy of a bit of deconstruction and identification of some of the moving parts to make it work for me.
Firstly it is important to understand that you can delegate the responsibility for a task or project, but that is not the same as accountability. As the manager, you retain the accountability but lots of people might be responsible. In fact, with responsibility, the more it can be shared, the better in many situations.
Secondly, I find the Nine Levels of Delegation a timeless gift from Sir Tim Brighouse, who as part of a stellar education contribution was Schools Commissioner for London 2002 - 2007.
His premise is to consider delegation as a series of choices - or in my mind, strength of flavours.
My process when delegating is to ladder up and down these 9 choices until I find the one that is comfortable for the situation, and then share this with the person, or people, to whom I am giving responsibility:
1. Look into this problem. Give me all the facts. I will decide what to do.
2. Let me know the options available, with the pros and cons of each. I will decide what to select.
3. Let me know the criteria for your recommendation, which alternatives you have identified and which one appears best to you, with any risk identified. I will make the decision.
4. Recommend a course of action for my approval.
5. Let me know what you intend to do. Delay action until I approve.
6. Let me know what you intend to do. Do it unless I say not to.
7. Take action. Let me know what you did. Let me know how it turns out.
8. Take action. Communicate with me only if action is unsuccessful.
9. Take action. No further communication with me is necessary.
Having agreed this, as another of my heroes, Will Schutz would say as a basic tenet of The Human Element "everyone is responsible and no-one is to blame" - but that's for another blog...
So think about it - how happy are you to delegate now?