Delegation – An Essential Leadership Skill

man-158378_640During my 35 year professional career as a CPA, an auditor, a CFO, a CEO and a COO, I have worked with many, many leaders of organizations.  These organizations range from a one man mechanic’s shop to a local Rotary Club, and to a Fortune 300 oil company.

The ability to delegate is single most essential leadership skill for organizational growth.  Even the most brilliant entrepreneur can only grow his/her business if there is someone else who can take some of the workload.  A good example is a dentist.  If the dentist works alone, the only billable hours are those the dentist works.  If the dentist is sick or takes a vacation, there are no billable hours – no revenue – no cash coming into the business.

In order to grow, the dentist would hire an assistant, then a receptionist, and then a contract hygienist and another assistant.  The dentist would delegate necessary activities to the employees that do not require a dental license.  Once the dentist has more patients than can he/she can treat, the dentist hires an associate.  Then, the dentist’s practice expands to an additional office on the other side of town, and so forth. 

This same principal applies to all businesses and organizations.  Since the ability to grow is limited by the ability to delegate work, mastering the following principles of delegation is critical for every exceptional leader.

This is an acrostic that I wrote in a book I co-authored with my brother, Russ Allred, called The Family Business – Power Tools for Survival, Success & Succession (Berkley Books, New York 1997). 

Determine who should do the job

You have to really know your team and have the ability to hire and retain those who are qualified to do a job that is worthy of your business.

Express confidence in their ability

Since you chose the person to do the job, tell them why you are confident that they will do a good job.  A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.

Let them know what you expect

Exceptional leaders do not throw their employees into deep water and expect them to learn how to swim.  Exceptional leaders explain the purpose of the project, offer all the information they will need and answer their questions.

Establish a negotiated deadline

It is unreasonable to assign a deadline without getting input from the person doing the job.  Dictating an unrealistic deadline is a sure way to achieve failure.

Get a commitment to the job and the deadline

This step allows everyone to confirm what needs to be done and when it needs to be finished.  Commitment produces miracles.

Allow them to use their imagination and initiative

When you chose who was going to do the job, you decided that they were qualified.  So, get out of their way and let them impress you with what they can do.  It might not be the same as you would do it because it might be better.

Train them by following up, not taking over

Follow-up and communication is essential to every delegated duty.  Mid-course corrections often need to be made.  Collaboration will help you and your employees find a better solution.  If your part is to nit-pick, complain and take-over, it is you that is the limiting factor in your business.

Express appreciation for actual results

Hollow compliments, because they sound good and make you seem like a nice person, are detrimental to an organization and to your credibility.  On the other hand, a genuine compliment that includes details as to why you are complimenting, is one of the most motivating things you can do for your organization and each individual employee.

If you use these principles of delegation, my experience shows, you will be a better and more persuasive leader and those whom you lead will be more satisfied and produce results beyond your expectations.


A version of this article was published by Accounting Today here.

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