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14 Oct 2020 » tools

3 min read


who may mistakenly believe they are Delegators.

What ticks us off

Everyone agrees that delegating is an essential part of managing and leading. But too often the delegatee feels dumped upon. And more often than not, the delegator feels – usually quite rightly! – that it would be quicker to do it themselves than to delegate.

How it can happen

It’s a real Catch-22. If there’s enough time for us to do a task, we’ll tend to do it ourselves. Because we can. And because it’s easier, quicker and safer to keep control of it.

If there is not enough time for us to do a task, we tend to end up ‘dumping’ on someone else, whether or not we dress it up and call it ‘delegating’ or even an ‘opportunity’ or a ‘challenge’.

Why? Because there is simply not enough time to ‘delegate’ the task properly. We end up frustrating everyone involved!

And another thing. Sometimes, frustratingly, the person who is delegating will cause great confusion by telling someone not only what to do, but how to do it – all jumbled up together.

So, delegation is much admired, applauded and encouraged, but it is less often done effectively.

Tips for handling dumpers

The key to delegating is to understand that – because of the dumping and doing-it-yourself tendencies referred to above – it only really works when we delegate a type of task, not an individual task. And delegating a type of task means that the delegatee can handle a whole category of tasks, not just the one. And in this way, they have been trained. And developed.

Because they can genuinely deputize for the delegator, long term.

This means taking time to delegate properly – not when there’s an urgent task to be done!

When being dumped on

Here’s a simple, effective delegation model. Hand it to the dumper.

  1. Plan who to delegate to, how long it will take to delegate (ie coach, teach, train) properly, and when and where and how it would be best to do it.

  2. Explain exactly what is needed (not how to do it, yet), in what form, for what purpose, and when.

  3. Invite delegatee/deputy to respond, after thinking, by confirming what the brief is.

  4. Clarify the brief, if necessary, eg:

  • ‘What you correctly understood is…’
  • ‘What you added in, that I did not specify, is…’
  • ‘What you left out is…’ Repeat 2 and 3 if necessary.
  1. Invite delegatee to consider:
  • how they might achieve this;
  • what resources/training they’ll need;
  • what support/supervision they want;
  • what authority they’ll need;
  • who else needs to be informed that they have this authority.
  1. Negotiate on the reassurances that you both want, that the project is going to be on track.

  2. And on completion discuss:

  • feedback;
  • feedforward; and
  • learnings for each of you – on the specific project and category.

This was an excerpt from How People Tick: A Guide to Over 50 Types of Difficult People and How to Handle Them by Mike Leibling

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