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Mar 20, 201811:55 AMLeader to Leader

with Terry Siebert

Barriers to effective delegation (again!)

(page 1 of 2)

I recently completed a training initiative with a group of new leaders in one of our client companies. Of all the areas we covered, the one that presented the biggest challenge for these leaders was the area of delegation. This is not an uncommon development, as this issue is almost always in the top two or three. With that in mind, this blog from 2007 should serve as a good reminder.

The late General George Patton was credited with the following quote: “Never tell a person how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity.” This idea sounds both simple and profound, yet has to be one of the most pressing challenges for those of us in a managerial role. This challenge may be even stronger for supervisors and managers who are new to their leadership roles.

Most business people would probably agree that there are several benefits to effective delegation. A working definition of effective delegation for an individual in a leadership role is the extension of oneself through another person or group. When done well, the manager improves coaching skills, helps others along their career paths, builds a sense of team accountability, and — if done very well — finds time to actually address other priorities. In addition, the individual gets the opportunity to learn and grow, feels he/she is a more critical part of the team, and gains skills that will make him/her more promotable.

All of this seems fairly obvious and straightforward. The question is, if it is so obvious and easy to understand, why don’t managers delegate effectively more often? This is another way of asking, why doesn’t common sense correlate to common practice more regularly? Having had the opportunity to work with thousands of managers, supervisors, and team leaders over the years, the answer generally falls into four different categories:

1. Manager delegates 100% of the responsibility to associate

You can delegate authority; you share responsibility. Harry Truman was the guy who said, “The buck stops here!” New supervisors often think they did their full job when they delegated the project to one of their people. The reality is that both the supervisor and associate still ultimately share the responsibility for the job. Delegation is not abdication, and a good leader is continually aware of the balance between authority and responsibility.

2. The subordinate cannot do the job — real or imagined

Many managers are so convinced of their own way and ability to do a job, that they get in the way of the growth of their team. When a job that “only they can do well” presents itself, they hesitate to give the opportunity to someone else. In doing this they are not only getting in the way of the development of their people, they are short-circuiting their own career path. Building a team is not about showing how well you can do the job. It is all about coaching others to do an even better job.


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About This Blog

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more.

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