Delegate work, not responsibility

Published on: August 9, 2009

Delegate work, not responsibilityI am a firm believer that delegation is key to building a scalable business. We can bring in all the technology in the world, but if we can’t delegate properly, our companies have no chance of scaling well. I have had the pleasure of spending many years in very rapidly growing companies and have made the following observations:

  • Delegating work does not absolve you of responsibility. In the case of a failure, the blame is all yours. Investors will go after the CEO, even if an intern made the mistake that hurt the company.
  • If a failure occurs due to person you delegated work to lacking skills, it is your fault you delegated work to the wrong person.
  • If you have to say “if you want it done right, do it yourself”, you may want to get some education on leadership and the art of delegation.

Delegation is something leaders need to master, because you can’t scale your organization without it. Without delegating well, you are bound to flat-line or even drive your company into decline.

So here are the rules of delegation I like to use:

  • Do not assume team members (even highly-experienced ones) are clear on what needs to be done. Go into detail until YOU are confident the other person will execute the work as specified.
  • Micromanaging is not delegating. You must have trust your team member and not hover. If you must hover, re-evaluate if the task is delegable or if you need to readjust your management style.
  • Communicate any and all pitfalls, points of caution, and other negatives that may affect the delegated work. Also share any best practices, sources of additional information, or personal tricks of the trade. Part of delegation is teaching.
  • When it comes to communications, it does take two to tango, but you need to take the lead.
  • If you can’t trust someone to take on delegated work and are not willing to invest in their personal development, than you need to replace that employee. This kind of person just drags down your organization.

If you have any other rules of delegation you practice, please share them in the comments section.

Photo credit: Firefly the Great