What I’ve learned about effective delegation

leadership-word-press
The best stuff I’ve ever read on the topic of delegation comes from Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, Ken Blanchard’s books “The One-Minute Manager” and “Whale Done” and Tom Rath’s book “How full is your bucket?“. All those books are worth reading.

Here is my best attempt to apply what I’ve read…

THE MODEL

The easiest way to understand Delegation is to consider a Game of Soccer.

STEP #1 – CLEARLY DEFINE HOW TO WIN
In a game of Soccer, you win by scoring more goals than the opposition.

Clarifying the win is so important because it puts everyone on the same page, it is the filter through which we measure everything, and it determines everything we do.

The first key to effective delegation is to clearly define how to win.

STEP #2 – CLEARLY DEFINE THE RULES, AND ONLY HAVE A FEW
In Soccer, there are very few rules…
> Don’t touch the ball with your hands
> Don’t be offside
> Don’t kick the ball out
> Don’t physically attack the opposition players

Clearly defining the rules is important because it actually gives freedom. When the rules are clearly stated, everyone knows what they can and can’t do. They don’t have to second guess everything they do, wondering if the referee is going to blow his whistle. Players have an enormous amount of freedom as long as they don’t break the 3 or 4 simple rules.

The second key to effective delegation is to clearly define the rules.

STEP #3 – CLEARLY DEFINE YOUR ROLE

In Soccer, the players are ultimately responsible for winning. They are the ones who make most of the decisions. The game stands or falls on their ability, effort and attitude. No one else can win the game for them.

However, they do have three very important support people whose job it is to help them win…

(A) The Water BoyHis job is simply to serve the players by giving them what they need and doing for them what they can’t do for themselves.

(B) The Cheerleaders – Their job is to celebrate every time the team does something good. And to help lift the player’s spirits when they are struggling.

(C) The Coach – His/Her job is to reflect with the players on how they are going, help develop effective strategies, and give the players training that will improve their skills.

The third step to effective delegation is to clearly define your role. You need to be the Water Boy, Cheerleader & Coach.

APPLYING THE MODEL

Suppose you’re a high school teacher, and your school wants to raise money for a local orphanage. You decide to delegate the responsibility to a group of keen students.

STEP #1 – CLEARLY DEFINE HOW TO WIN
Raise $10,000 for the local orphanage.

(That’s it. There are not 7 goals or 9 techniques or 4 strategies. It is just one goal. The win is clearly defined).

STEP #2 – CLEARLY DEFINE THE RULES, AND ONLY HAVE A FEW
> Don’t do anything unethical
> Clearly account for all money
> Abide by workplace health & safety standards
> Don’t do anything which might cause us to lose money.

(Again, there are not hundreds of do’s and don’ts. There is nothing saying that the students have to do a car wash, or a slave auction or whatever. They have the freedom to try hundreds of different ideas, as long they are seeking to ‘win’, and obey the ‘rules’).

STEP #3 – CLEARLY DEFINE YOUR ROLE
Explain to the students that you will do whatever you can to help them succeed.

Firstly, as their Water Boy
The students are in charge. They make their own decisions. But you commit to serving them in practical ways. (For example, they might need something photocopied, or they might need some petty cash).

Secondly, as their Cheerleader
Research says that we need to give feedback at a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative. Therefore, you need to constantly find things to celebrate.

Thirdly, as their Coach
Once you have effectively served them as their Water Boy, and celebrated at least 5 positives as their Cheerleader, you now have the right to speak into their lives as their Coach. You can discuss strategy or skills or even effort, but you do it keeping the following in mind…

> You are not to take over: The responsibility must remain their responsibility. As long as they play within the rules, they have freedom to try whatever they want.

> You need to abide by the 5:1 ratio of positive to negative

> You need to give them permission to fail: This is the only way to learn.

DELEGATION TABLE

The following can be used at the beginning of the delegation process…

MANAGER:                         TEAM:
CLARIFY THE WIN

 

 

 

CLARIFY THE RULES


1.
  

 

 

2.  

 

 

3. 

 

 

4.

 

 

CLARIFY THE ROLES

1. Water Boy: How can I serve you?

 

 

2. Cheerleader: I will intentionally find ways to celebrate your success. I will do this by…

 

 

3. Coach: I will meet with you to reflect upon how we are going and to see if I can provide any advice. Our regular meeting time will be…

 

 

 

A PDF of the table can be downloaded here: Delegation Table

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