Delegation is one of the most important and probably one of the most underused skills of leadership.   When leaders can’t or won’t delegate to others, they often end up doing too much themselves. As a result, nobody wants to be the next leader. They don’t want the workload and they’re afraid they won’t be able to fill the leader’s shoes.

One of the first responsibilities of leadership is to provide for the succession: to prepare others to lead the organization. Delegation is the most effective means to do this: future leaders gain confidence by successfully completing projects and because the work is shared with others, the size of the leader’s workload is manageable.

A head coach does delegates responsibility to the line coach, the defensive coordinator, and others.

A philosophy many of us grew up with gets in the way of delegation: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” A more useful approach is to see yourself as a coach, helping others develop.

Delegation is a Compliment

When you delegate, you are giving the individual a great compliment. You’re saying, “You have the talent and ability to get this job done successfully. The more success someone has, the more responsibility they want, and they become a more vital, contributing member of the team.

When delegating, first define exactly what you want done. Then assess the capabilities and interests of the people who could do the job and select the best individual for the job.

Sell the idea to the individual to whom you have delegated the responsibility. Sometimes we forget to say or assume it’s obvious how the person will also benefit. Spell it out—you’ll gain visibility in the organization and the community, you’ll learn a new skill, you’ll increase your network of friends and professionals, etc.

When the individual accepts the delegation make it clear they have both the responsibility and authority to carry out the assignment. Be specific about what you want accomplished but give the individual freedom to choose how to do the job. Recognize there’s more than one method, belief, or approach. Give your people latitude to get the job done in their own way, within ethical and moral boundaries.

Stay in touch with the delegate.  Ask about the progress of the project in a non-threatening way. Offer ideas if they seem to be needed. Give advice if it’s asked for.

When the individual completes the work successfully, give credit where it’s due. The best leaders are results-focused rather than self-recognition focused. Good managers want the spotlight on everybody else, but it’s a funny thing about credit, the more you don’t want it for yourself, the more you get of it. By using delegation, leaders achieve the results they’re after and develop future leaders in the process.