In October, I read a CNBC article where Sir Richard Branson advised Elon Musk on the art of delegating.
In many conversations since, I have used this article to engage others on their ideas, perceptions and familiarity with delegating work. Responses from my conversational partners varied significantly and only a few were quite positive about delegating work. Too often people found delegating work was counterproductive, as they would lose sight of what was happening in their organisation. I can only imagine this might be Elon Musk’s approach to delegating work. In other occasions, people would respond they could not delegate their work, because others were not competent or capable enough or they could do the work much quicker themselves. In short, the majority of people felt they had good reasons not to delegate work. When asked, these same people also felt strongly about always being in control. Leadership and control do not work well together; you cannot expect to be a good leaders by controlling people and capabilities you lead.
As a leader, you need to maintain overview, you need to have situational awareness, which is nothing like having control. You will not have any situational awareness if you have your head down, focused on delivery of today’s projects, operations and task. If you are focused on today who is ensuring the future is set for your organisation to remain or become competitive?
Delegating is a function of leadership; it is not complicated, but it is not always easy. For you to be able to delegate work, your first goal is to ensure the person or people you are planning to delegate to, are set up for success. You need to trust, enable and support your staff, for you to be able to successfully delegate work to them. Up front, this will require effort. In the first instances, it may seem to be quicker to do work yourself, than it is to set other up for success. This may not be untrue for today or tomorrow, but as a leader you are always focused on longevity, not just on today’s result.
The main difference between delegating work and handing off work, is what you do beforehand. By setting the conditions for your staff to be able to deliver successfully, you will create acceptance and more importantly engagement. People will not want to do your work for you, they do want to take ownership of their work. You facilitate and support your staff, for them to take pride in delivering their work… this is how you delegate, this is the only way to be successful.
WARNING: no matter how well you set others up for success, no matter how well you can delegate your responsibilities… you can never delegate your accountabilities. You will always remain accountable for whatever you delegate.