Delusion of Delegation: 10 Principals for Proper Delegation

Delegation. This might be the most misunderstood topic in business today. Delegating improperly is also the most critical mistake business owners make.

Delegation starts when you have “too much on your plate” as an entrepreneur. You realize that you can’t get everything done on your own, so you start to hire others.

Any other day, you might think that the topic of delegation would be really odd for two strangers to randomly discuss as they struck up a conversation. Its a little more common when the two individuals are attending Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Summit.

I met Arlan Campbell in the buffet line between leadership discussions at the EL Summit a week ago. We both had a LOT on our plates… Arlan and I started talking about the merits of good leadership.

I told Arlan that I feel like I have always had a love-hate relationship with the topic of delegation. I love the idea that I must get others involved as they will help our organization succeed. However, I find that I loathe the work involved with proper delegation.

Arlan reminded me he that got better at delegating to his team when he heard that Dave teaches proper delegation by using the metaphor of the “rope.” When you work with individuals at your office, or when you parent a teenager, you have a “metaphorical” rope attached to them. You hold the end of the rope as they wade into the world. As they gain more experience… you give them a little more responsibility… a little more rope. If they falter (and we all do at times), you pull in the rope a little bit. As a leader, you NEVER let go of the rope even as someone has lots of “slack” in the rope from years of experience.

Dave Ramsey intentionally named this lesson on Delegation: “Mastering the Rope” in the last chapter his best selling book, EntreLeadership. Dave reminds business owners that if its your goal to run any business of scale larger than you, you must learn to delegate properly.

Dave encourages his leaders to remember that your goal is to TEACH your teammates HOW to make good decisions. Dave further explains that delegation is really a step-by-step process. Here are Dave Ramsey’s 10 BASICS of DELEGATION:

  1. Delegation is the most misunderstood and ABUSED area of leadership.
  2. An EntreLeader can only delegate tasks, responsibilities, and concepts to a team member when both are MATURE.
  3. The process of building a team to which concepts can be delegated is LENGTHY but rewarding.
  4. In order for a leader to completely delegate, they have to come to trust the team member’s INTEGRITY and COMPETENCY.
  5. Before the hire is made, you must have created a CULTURE of motivation, fun, rewards and crusade.
  6. The delegating leader always sets the tone for the team with integrity, work ethic, intensity, and SPEED.
  7. When the new hire enters this culture, they are able to move past the first few OBSTACLES quickly.
  8. At the start of a new position, it is impossible to OVER-MANAGE. In those first weeks, it’s not micromanaging; it’s called training.
  9. As the person proves himself, you lengthen the ROPE a little at a time until little follow-up is required.
  10. Complete delegation is when the EntreLeader is only approving LARGE decisions and checking results.

When I originally bought into the idea, I used to delegate by throwing tasks at someone new on my team until they drowned. I didn’t mean to set them up for failure. I just didn’t know how to properly lead individuals. Most of us don’t understand delegation… most of us blindly hand off something expecting that the other person will just “get it” eventually. I thought that I was “working smart” by giving giving more and more tasks to someone down the chain of command. I realized that the root my concern was that I would be accused of being a micromanager or control freak if I tried to give my teammate a lot of direction.

The more I thought about it… the more I realized how stupid I was acting. How can you expect anyone to think or act like you… if you don’t properly show them? I started working with my teammates like an apprentice. I realized that its MY RESPONSIBILITY to show them how (early and often) and then to watch them replicate the task under my guidance. A true leader commits to delegating properly. ~Kyle Malnati