Would you book a plane ticket on an airline that you half-trusted? Or allow a surgeon to operate on you if he had only completed half of the required clinical training? Or lend someone money if you rated your prospects of collection no better than half?

The answer to these questions is an obvious “no”. So, why can’t you half-delegate? You can’t half-delegate for the same reasons that you can’t half-love someone or half-respect someone? You either love them or respect them or you don’t. This is black or white – you do or you don’t.

Delegation is entirely about trust. Effective delegation involves the delegation of the responsibility, not just the work. If you only half-trust a person then you shouldn’t delegate to them. Half-delegation requires constant dabbling in the matters that have been delegated creating frustration for everybody involved. Some executives like this approach (dabbling), but nobody else will.

Here are a couple of delegation principles and methods that I have used extensively in the numerous businesses I have been involved with. They are road-tested and they work:

  • Only delegate responsibility when you are ready to trust the other person 100%. If they are not ready, then mentor them closely until they progress to a stage where you are comfortable. During the mentoring stage make the rules of the game clear – that is, the work may have been delegated but the responsibility has not. This process may take days, weeks or months. Be patient. The most important thing is to equip the person with the tools and experience required to confidently (and eventually)  take the responsibility on.
  • Work together to set out a clear written plan for the tasks that are being delegated. This should contain an overview of the work; its objectives, outcomes and budget; any mini-milestones and the overall timeline to get it done. Be certain that the plan is agreed and understood before moving ahead. Make it clear that there will be periodical review meetings (e.g. weekly) to review progress. Be supportive and available when you need to be, but don’t dabble!

Great managers spend most of their time managing people and developing talent. They don’t do the work themselves. Their value is in creating an environment where the technicians and emerging managers can excel. They are passionate about developing their people into the best they can be and don’t care whether they outgrow and leave the business. This approach inevitably leads to companies becoming employers of choice and people staying longer.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen all that often. A lot of managers are impatient (or worse) and won’t spend the time teaching and mentoring their people to become better. Instead they just do the work themselves and complain how busy they are. Or they leave their people to their own devices and complain when progress is slow. These managers are actually technicians in disguise. They are more comfortable in doing the work rather than managing other people to do the work. What they don’t realise is that they have created both a work bottleneck and development bottleneck in their businesses. Work doesn’t get done because they are the only people that can do it and nobody under them ever gets any development time so they don’t move forward with their careers. People leave as a result.

Sooner or later you will need to delegate part or all of your work to someone else. This is inevitable. The benefits of effective delegation are clear. By creating a work-force of empowered managers and workers who have clear parameters in which to operate and are trusted to get the job done, the business will steam ahead. Success will inevitably be determined by the speed in which you can make your current role redundant. Challenge yourself to do it as soon as possible.