Malcolm Forbes, the former publisher of Forbes magazine, had a saying that might sound like he was joking, but there was much truth in it, “When in doubt, route.” Here is how he described what he meant, “If you don’t know what to do with many of the papers piled on your desk, stick a dozen colleagues’ names on them and pass them along.”
This is a real life example of what Stephen Covey said about the importance of delegation, Organizations don’t grow much without delegation…because they are confined to the capacities of the boss.” You see, successful leaders have to be Delegators – you don’t know how to do everything, and even if you did you don’t have the time.
But, there is a misperception of how successful delegation works. Some people think that if you are a delegator you are giving away the responsibility to achieve success. This is not the way it works. A Delegator does not give away and go away, they are here to stay, but in a different way. Here are the three steps of a Delegator.
The three steps of a Delegator:
Establish the vision
Even though you are delegating much of what you do, one thing that you can’t delegate is establishing the vision for the team – this one is 100 percent yours. You decide and describe where the team is going and what success looks like.
Eli Broad founded two Fortune 500 companies in different industries (KB Homes and SunAmerica). When running KB homes, Broad signed off on every decision about the land they would build homes on, “I made sure always to know where we were buying, what the market was like there, and what the lot would do for us.”
Broad didn’t exert that type of control on everything, “Once you’ve identified your crucial tasks and sorted out your priorities, try to find a way to delegate everything else.” He went on to say, “The trick to delegating is to make sure your employees share your priorities.” This is the key to establishing the vision.
Agree to the strategy
Now you should be ready to share control. This is the big picture of how the vision will be accomplished. Here the delegator works with the team to develop the strategy, ensuring it aligns with the vision. This step is 50/50 between the delegator and the team. Open dialogue, and differing opinions are heard to come to the right answer.
Leaders don’t need to have every answer, but they do need to find every answer. That is the shared part.
John Maxwell is an international bestselling author on Leadership and he also founded and leads several companies (Equip, Maximum Impact, and The John Maxwell Team).
John says that delegating the big picture strategy is important because it allows him to do what is important to him. He recognizes the other end to this delegation, “Assignments are not always done ‘my way’. But I have discovered that most things can be accomplished effectively in many ways.”
Activate the plan
Now you are ready for the strategy to be accomplished using the strengths and talents of each person on the team. These are the short term actions that if successful will lead to accomplishing the vision.
Here is where some Delegators incorrectly give up all control and hope that success will come. The real success comes when you understand that you will accomplish what you inspect, not what you expect. While you should let your team make 100 percent of the day to day decisions, you have to stay connected to see that everything is heading in the right direction.
Wayne Huizenga, the founder of AutoNation, Waste Management, and Blockbuster described his role as a delegator like this, “I give authority, but I stay in touch. Otherwise it doesn’t work.”