The Case For Delegation

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” – Ronald Reagan

Delegate, delegate, delegate. It’s the mantra of every well-intentioned, but overly scheduled, stressed-out leader. It sounds great. It sounds easy. You know you should. You know that high performance teams cannot exist when one person is micromanaging the whole operation. You know that high performance teams exist in an environment of individual responsibility and autonomy. But, when you’re the one who is ultimately responsible for a job well done, letting go and letting others take over some of the work becomes more difficult.

Sound familiar? First of all… Stop. Take a deep breath. Delegation is not an either-or strategy. It does not mean handing off an entire project completely or not at all. Delegation might mean handing off only part of a project and implementing measurement and milestones that will ensure things are done according to your standards.

There are also times when the best decision is to just take the entire project back. It happens. And, it’s ok. But, if we’re lucky enough to work with a talented, dedicated team of professionals, we are just shooting ourselves in the foot if we don’t leverage those resources.

For starters, a lack of delegation and micromanagement contributes to high turnover and low morale. When people don’t feel like they have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, they will either adopt a lethargic, who-cares attitude, or start searching for new opportunities. Teams that aren’t trusted with responsibility and autonomy also produce lower quality work. If those around you are just going along with whatever you want, you can be certain that you are missing out on creativity, ideas and talents.

When we insist on putting ourselves in the middle of every decision and every task, we don’t give our team the chance to grow and improve. We also slow progress.

Operating at a higher level requires that we learn to delegate – often and well.

If you know you need to delegate more, here are a few ideas for how to do it well:

  1. Examine where should you really be spending your time and energy? In other words, what does your team need you to be focused on?
  2. Think about what skill sets you need to be able to rely on in those around you so that you can focus most of your time on the answer to question number 1.
  3. As you begin to rely on others for more tasks, focus your direction more on what they should be doing and why it’s important that they do it, rather than on telling them exactly how. Not everyone will do things exactly like you would. Not only is that ok, it can open up new ways of doing things that are actually better (gasp!) than they way you’ve been doing them up till now.
  4. Think in terms of delegating problems rather than solutions. Give out assignments that challenge and enable your team to grow beyond their current ability and trust your team to make quality decisions and deliver great results.
  5. When something goes wrong (and it sometimes will) focus on what everyone can learn from the experience rather than assigning blame. Offer feedback and observations rather than going straight into “fix-it” mode. Require your team to come up with solutions rather than looking to you to just telling them what to do.
  6. Let your team contribute to the creation of values, expectations and goals. All of us are more likely to deliver great work when we feel personally invested in the outcome.

Above all, treat your team as you want to be treated. The golden rule never fails. If you want the opportunity to engage in meaningful, challenging work, chances are your team wants the same thing.


About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.


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