Are You Delegating or Abdicating?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Overworked managers often celebrate the addition of a new hire to their team by delegating some of the work they haven’t been able to complete. For some managers, the expansion of the team means assigning the pesky or detested project to the new guy. All too often, the delegation of work becomes more of an abdication by the manager, as explained by Michael Hyatt.

Hyatt’s humorous story about a failed landscaping project in his backyard underscores his more serious discussion about poor leadership. In the workplace, we’ve all watched it happen. A manager asks the new guy to make sure a special order gets completed on time for a picky client. Or, maybe the manager asks the receptionist to sign for an important delivery, but fails to let her know that the items should be inspected according to an established protocol first. There’s also the manager who loves to sit in meetings and dream up new ways for getting work done. She then assigns responsibility to a team member and never checks back in to see what has happened. All these scenarios hold the potential for disaster: yours.

If you want to succeed as a leader, you need to walk the fine line between delegating and abdicating. Assigning projects is an opportunity to allow your team members to grow professionally and work independently. Don’t hover over people and micromanage. Nobody appreciates their boss acting like their mom. Micromanagement breeds resentment and can stymy an employee’s will or ability to solve problems on his own.

Unacceptable behavior on the other end of the spectrum, abdication, can also lead to trouble.  If you’re working with a trusted employee who has relevant and substantial experience, you can let her take over a project with little oversight from you. Don’t forget to check in once in a while and praise her work.

A brand-​new employee may require more hand holding. Don’t assume she understands what you want after your initial conversation with her. She may nod and says she’s all set, because she wants to impress you. If you don’t follow up with the employee relatively soon after assigning a project, you can’t be sure she understood your instructions. When delegating a project, talk with her about when and how you will follow up. Keep your word. If you say you want to meet with her in one week, put that meeting on the calendar. Checking in with her on a regular basis allows you to assess how well the project is going, keep things on track and provide advice and support as needed.

At the end of any project, take the time to reflect on how you led your team members. Hyatt recommends asking yourself, “What was it about my leadership that led to this outcome?” If you’re happy with the outcome, you’ll want to duplicate your actions the next time around. If you see room for improvement, make mental notes on what you want to change.