Monday, August 17, 2009

What Motivates Your Delegation?

All good managers are good delegaters, yes? Not necessarily. There’s a fundamental pre-requisite motive behind the good delegater. They carry with it a certain diligence that supports the person who’s actually been given the task or work to do.

Whenever anyone suggests someone is a good delegater I subconsciously put them through this test. “What’s in it for them?” I think. What is the person who’s doing the delegation getting out of it? And, what are they offering the person delegated the work?

If they’re getting all the benefit and can bask in a sense of laziness, and the person doing the task has to do it all without appropriate levels of support, I don’t see that as “delegation.” That’s more like insubordination as they’re not delivering their boss with the sort of service, and therefore attention, they deserve.

Good delegation carries with it the willingness to mentor and support via encouragement and feedback. It’s active to the extent that it’s required. Good delegation is about quietly monitoring a situation and always being prepared to ‘pitch in’ at whatever level is appropriate for the need at hand, and also relating to the person or people involved. Delegation, after all, is not abrogation of responsibility--accountability doesn’t shift to the person who’s been delegated the task.

If there’s little or no mentoring or support via encouragement and feedback required i.e. the person doing the task is perfectly competent to do it, then it’s no longer a case of delegation unless the task simply cannot be re-allocated in responsibility. Some tasks we do on behalf of another. If this is a regular thing one person is responsible for it, the one above, accountable.

The key searching point is this: when we delegate some or all of the components of the tasks we’re accountable for, what is our motive?

Is it to give someone else exposure and opportunity--therefore challenging and growing them, or is it simply that we like others to do our dirty work? The good leader will always seek to do a good amount of their own dirty work and in this they model what true team work and selflessness is.

The people below us know in any event what our motives are. We’re not fooling anyone.

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