Extra: Delegating

When Do I Delegate And When Not?

This is fairly simple in principle but not necessarily simple in practice. Answering the question starts with understanding exactly what is being delegated and what it means to delegate. We do not delegate our accountability for outcomes. Whether the outcomes are successful continues to be our obligation even if we do delegate the job to someone else. We continue to be responsible for how the job is done and the results despite having delegated the assignment. We have merely gotten someone to help us do what we are committed to doing. We should delegate then, only when we either cannot do the job by ourselves or do not want to do it alone.

Delegation goes a little further though. Instead of just getting someone to help us, we ask them to do the job for us, on our behalf. They do the job as if we had done it ourselves. We do not do the job, supervise their doing it, or interfere in their work. We delegate the job and then back away and let them do what they have agreed to do. They are not an extension of us, they are a substitute for us.

The conclusion is thus to only delegate jobs when we are prepared to turn the job over to someone else and then wait on the results. The corollary is only delegating jobs to people who we trust enough to be held accountable for whether or not they succeed and in whom we have enough confidents to step back and wait.

Of course, we delegate enough authority to get the job done and assure sufficient resources are available or accessible to do what needs done. This means the job does not require authority only we or people above us have. The person to whom we have delegated the job does not need any further approval or authorization from us or anyone else. They have the authority and resources they need to succeed.

The next conclusion is we only delegate when the job does not require our level of authority to be done or our level of access to resources. The person doing the job does not have to come back to us for approval. If he (or she) does, we have not actually delegated the job.

There are a variety of arrangements among co-workers we use to further the interests of our companies and our customers. Delegation is only one of those arrangements. However, when we do delegate, we are saying, “Get the job done and let me know when it is finished.”

As we see, delegation is not a cooperative activity. Rather, it is more a matter of having enough trust and confidence in someone else to let him stand in for us and our willingness to be personally held accountable for the outcome he (or she) does or does not achieve.