November 2, 2010

My Problem with Delegation

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:08 am by Steve

Why is it so difficult?  And why are am I so bad at it?  Here are three very simple reasons…

Kent Fenwick writes:  I will confess that I find it hard to delegate and ask for help. Many times I take the “It’ll be better if I do it myself attitude.” Delegation is a habit and like all habits it takes practice and discipline to get it right. In fact, I think there are three dimensions to delegation that we have to master.


The first is knowing what you can delegate. There are some things that you cannot delegate. Going to the bathroom, eating, sleeping and your art. Your art is the thing that you do that no one else does, and hopefully you get paid for it. My art is being able to program and to take complicated business rules and requirements and boil them down to simple applications. Maybe your art is customer service, blogging, serving the best coffee you can etc. Once you know what you can’t delegate, everything else is fair game. Almost everything. I like to stick by the 2 minute David Allen rule defined in Getting Things Done. If the thing you are trying to do can be done by you in 2 minutes or less, do it and do it then and there. Otherwise, Delegate.


The second is knowing how to delegate. This is the actual act of delegation. Asking someone else to do something for you. This is also a skill/art that requires practice. In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey talks about stewardship delegation in contrast to gopher (go-for) delegation.

Stewardship delegations defines the rules of the game and the desired outcome but leaves the details to the delegated.

Gopher delegation is micromanagement at it’s worst. You define every step with so much detail you may as well do it yourself. The more trust you have in the people you are delegating to the more natural stewardship delegation becomes but it takes practice and trust. Don’t forget. Ps and Qs go a long way in this step.


The third is actually doing it. Putting on your shorts and shoes is great, but it will do you no good unless you go for a run. (Anne Fenwick Proverb)

You must take the plunge and start delegating! Play the WTWTCH (What’s the worst that can happen) Game. For example, when I used the acronym WTWTCH, I hoped you read the explanation and chuckled at the ridiculous use of an acronym in that situation. But maybe you didn’t. Maybe you think I’m an idiot and aren’t even reading this anymore. That’s about the worst that can happen. So I did it. Same goes for delegation.

Ask yourself What’s the worst that can happen?

Someone will say no.

Okay, then ask someone else.

Someone will do it wrong.

Yes, that’s true. However, use it as a chance to learn and get better at delegating. Did you define the task enough? Did you define it too much? Did you give the person any resources or recommendations that might have been helpful? Don’t assume right away that because it wasn’t done right it must be their fault. It’s likely partially or fully your fault.

There is much more to this article that I think you’ll really find beneficial today.  

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