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The Dirty “D” Word

You know the word I am talking about. 

The aspirational word uttered by about every leader I work with.  That super-attractive, theoretical, ever-elusive, I-know-I-need-to-do-it-but-can-never-figure-out-how word.  That word that will unlock the key to success or, at a minimum, sanity:


Yes, this one simple word, when put into practice, can lessen the pressure on the precious limited resource we all possess that can never, ever grow beyond 24 hours in a day: TIME

So, why is it that as leaders we express unanimity among us all that we need to delegate more, but we are so unable to do so? 

The answer, in my humble opinion, is “delegation” has become a dirty word.

In the world of leadership, delegation’s definition has devolved to the idea and occasional practice of passing tasks that are beneath a certain paygrade to someone lower on the organizational chart.

Adhering to this notion makes the whole business of effective delegation a challenge for everyone involved.  Changing mindset (and subsequent success rate) is going to require a reclamation of the word “delegate” and a commitment to practice. 

So where to start?  Change your mindset first!

Have you ever built a delegation plan?  I’m talking about a thoughtful plan that includes things such as:

  • PERSONWho in my organization is ready to take on additional responsibility that will grow them personally and professionally?
  • OPPORTUNITIES What are the right tasks to delegate that will add value?  (I’m not saying you just pass off the grunt work, but instead look for options that will give the individual a strong growth opportunity.)
  • REASON Be able to clearly articulate why this is an important task – explain how it fits into the larger vision, purpose and success of the organization and the person’s own growth.
  • TALK Make the delegation conversation a big deal.  Don’t just send an email to hand out tasks.  Delegate with a conversation. Let the team member ask questions.  Allow them to dream a bit about how they might tackle the task.  Make sure you resource them for success.  Most importantly, don’t take the task back! Commit the time and energy necessary to make them succeed at accomplishing.  Remain accountable, but give them all the credit.

These four points start with letters that form the acronym “PORT.”  If you practice this idea of creating a delegation plan and actually execute it, you might be surprised at how delegation becomes a healthy habit for you and your organization. And, the word “delegation” will be reclaimed for good. 

Picture in your mind a thriving and growing delegation dock that is ready to bring new boats with fresh loads into port.

Now, consider: How can you, as a leader worth following, be a better captain of this work? 

Written by: Alex Cornett, Partner – Milestone Leadership

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