Responsible Delegation

May 8, 2012 · by Allison Porter · Filed Under Choices · Leave a Comment

succession_planning_resizedWe’ve all heard the expression, “Give me a fish and I’ll eat for a day, teach me how to fish and I’ll eat for a lifetime.”   Learning is good, but so is being on the hook for delivering results.  So here, let’s put a twist on it: “teach me how to fish and I’ll know how to fish, give me the responsibility for fishing and the whole village will eat.”

We often cut corners as managers and “task” people to do the work of movement building.  In other words, we ask people to do short term and manageable pieces but never really transfer ownership or responsibility.

Another way to refer to task delegation is “go-fer” delegation.  Go-fer this, go-fer that.  We often do it with the best intentions.  We don’t want to overwhelm people with too much.  In my experience all these good intentions have become a bad habit.  We are just too accustomed to carrying the whole weight on our shoulders.  In the process we lose the collective creativity and capacity to grow the movement beyond our own individual abilities and time.

If you are open to moving in the direction of delegating responsibility, then be mindful of what it means to break a habit.  Responsible delegation is a mindset and a skill.   It is intentional and authentic.   From the head and the heart.  It increases capacity, widens involvement and deepens commitment.

Put yourself ‘on the hook’ for effective delegation

  • Delegate responsibility and not just tasks

The definition of a responsibility is “something for which you are answerable that you have control over.”  The definition of a task is “a piece of work, a chore.”

  • Involve at the earliest stage possible

The earlier in the process that you involve someone the more ownership there will be. 

  • Set up for success.

The level of detail you need in the instructions, the tightness of the reporting and check-ins, the amount of encouragement offered, and the extent of the debriefing all connect directly to the ability of the person being delegated to.

This means more than calling a task a responsibility [i.e. “it is your Responsibility to buy the worms.”] You will know if you are getting better at delegating when you start to feel anxious about letting go.

And the village will thank you.



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