Delegation – That Tightrope Act
Delegation of authority and decision-making in business has much in common with walking a tightrope:
- if your mindset is too cautious then you over-think your way to failure
- if your mindset is too carefree then you over-step your way to failure
- when you are learning the skills it is best to have a safety net
Delegation succeeds when the donors and receivers of it are in balance. Donors and receivers are in balancewhen the donors are comfortable with and skilled at delegating the authority and the receivers are comfortable with receiving the authority and making the decisions that follow. If either of these comfort levels is not in place then delegation fails. In business, delegation problems tend to show up at polar extremes.
At one extreme, for one reason or another, the donor – the Boss – is not comfortable delegating and is prone to hold decision making close to the chest. Sometimes this is done quietly and few people know what the Boss is thinking. Other times it is done openly, with the Boss dictating a thick and long string of decisions.
At the other extreme, the Boss either hates details or avoids difficult situations or is uncomfortable telling people what to do [or some combination of these things] and makes a habit of allowing people to make decisions without guidelines, let alone rules.
At both these extremes, safety nets are absent…there are no:
- linkages between work-tasks and individuals’ talents [Whom]
- systems for communicating Why
- knowledge transfer about How
- practice to develop skill at doing What
Without thinking and planning Whom, Why, How, & What, failures are inevitable.
That is why – Delegation: Damned if you do [it wrong]; Damned if you don’t [do enough].
And that is why – Delegation of business authorities and decision-making is a tightrope rope.
To avoid the slips and falls, delegate with balance.
If you are over-cautious, understand that will never breed excellence in your work or the work of your people. Figure out how to get over your over-cautiousness. Hire a coach or, even better, hire a mentor. Allow yourself to fail….small failures…with safety nets so you suffer as little as possible while you learn and build confidence in your ability to delegate. Place the tightrope close to the ground so your errors are small mis-steps rather than painful plummets. Take baby steps along the tightrope wire. Gain confidence with each step…until you master your delegation performance.
If you are carefree, understand that will bring your business demise. With no grounding in place, sooner or later, you and all your people will fall from the rope. Would you assume the people at your business can perform a tightrope walk?…I mean a real tightrope act…I am now talking outside the metaphor – Would you take your people to a circus and put them on the high wire? Of course you wouldn’t do that. Keep that in mind the next time you assume your people can handle authority and decision-making. Do not assume. Know. Know your people can handle authority and make good decisions. And, prove you Know by investing the time and effort to ensure your business uses Processes for:
- Taking Talent To Task: using the right linkages between work-tasks and individuals’ talents [Whom]
- communicating Why delegation is essential if business is to succeed
- transferring knowledge about How delegation must be performed if business is to succeed
- practicing to develop skill at doing What … i.e., both doing the delegation and doing the work that falls under the delegation