4 Easy Steps To Healthy Delegation

Even a potential control freak leader like me knows healthy delegating actually improves the organization. 

Yet, I work with dozens of pastors and leaders every year who struggle to release authority and responsibility.

How do we let go of responsibility when we are wired so heavily towards not doing so? How do we delegate when the church holds us responsible for getting things done? How do we let go when doing so makes us sometimes feel so out of control?

I often say there are three underlying reasons a leader doesn’t delegate.

Pride. They don’t think someone else can – as well as them.
Selfishness. They don’t want someone else getting the credit.
Ignorance. They simply don’t know how.

I can’t help with the first two, other than point you to Scripture and hope it convicts you otherwise. But, I can help you with the third one. And, I’m not trying to over simply a complicated leadership issue. It’s certainly not “easy” to implement as the title indicates, but the understanding the process really is simple.

Here are 4 easy steps to healthy delegation:

Identify

It could be a specific one-time task or an ongoing assignment, but find something which would be better delegated – either because you aren’t as skilled as others, don’t have adequate time to commit to it, or have lost interest. You have to get gut honest here, but look for things know someone would be better suited to lead. They have more time or talent in this area. And, don’t get stuck on this one. Make sure you find something. There is always something when you look for it.

Match

Find the right person/s for the responsibility based on passion, experience, and follow through capabilities. This can be volunteer or paid, but pick people who will do what they say they will do and you trust. Otherwise you will constantly be looking over their shoulder and back to not delegating again. And, you may not know until you give someone a chance to try. And, please don’t say there is no one to trust in your church or organization. If that’s the case, I see a couple options – you can change organizations or change the leader – and, most of the time it is the leader. Part of leading is raising up others to lead. (I’m not trying to be harsh, but it’s true.)

Release

This is the “letting go” part. (This is the scary part for many leaders. You may simply have to walk by faith on this one. I suspect Moses did when he followed Jethro’s advice.) Few leaders really do this well. Leaders usually lean more toward control than release, in my experience. But, if you want to be a delegator, especially a healthy delegator, you have to learn to give up your right to control. It won’t likely be done the way you wanted it to be done. It may not be done at the pace you expected. You have to release authority to do the delegated work. Help cast a vision of what a win looks like, give them the tools they need, but, this is the part of delegation you need the most – getting out of the way.

Follow-Up

Healthy delegation isn’t a dumping of responsibilities. If you are the senior leader even when you delegate you have some responsibility, even though you have released authority. Set a reminder on your calendar to periodically follow up with the person. Remain close enough and Xavailable to them should they have questions or need help, but stay out of their way as they complete the assignment.

I realize it’s not easy for some to delegate responsibility. It comes with discipline and practice. One way to improve at this is to consider the overall purposes and goals of the organization, recognizing they can better be attained through delegation, and allow accomplishing them to be the leader’s principal responsibility – rather than simply completing tasks personally. 

The journey to complete a worthy vision, includes delegating. Letting go to achieve greater success should be a key motivation for leadership.

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20 thoughts on “4 Easy Steps To Healthy Delegation

  1. As a second chair leader much of what I do from day-to-day is assigned to me. What's frustrating is how often I will work on a task only to find that my boss already did it himself! Or when I have generally assigned duties like "communications" but he won't let me help him develop communication pieces or he edits minor details ("use March instead of 03" when stylistically the "03" was the right choice). It's hard working for someone who does not delegate well. It can sabatoge the organization and halt growth since everything has to pass through him. For example, all paid staff report to him – even clerical and custodial staff.

    • You have just described my worst nightmare of being in the second chair. I hate responsibility without authority or leaders that refues to delegate. You are a much more patient person than me! It honestly takes a better leader at times to be a second chair leader. (That's a good idea for a blog post…BTW…I may consider it.)
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  2. I'm 26 and my generation wants to know "why" (vision). I don't want to know how you would do it (details) unless you feel I really don't understand what you want (which is why the art of casting vision is so important). Or unless I'm at an impass and I'm looking for an idea to be a catalyst to my own creation.

    Your vision is for something better, therefore our vision is for something better. Since better is an objective word it is difficult for us to partcipate in something we don't really believe is better. Had the vision for a better search engine stoped with Yahoo, Google would have never been formed.

    In a class room for college students that doubles as a classroom for older adults a message was jokingly written on the white board: "We own your future." Leaders can either squash inspiration and creativity or they can empower through vision and delegation. But either way, my generation owns the future. How are you going to empower us?

    BTW: your blog is a great investment. I very much appreciate it.

    • The problem with not wanting to know how, is that a leader has a set way of how they want it done. So when you do it in a way a leader didn't want it done you hear about it. After a while you end up asking how because you know it matters and your own how is not what they want from you, even though they delegated it to you.

      • Mason maybe I never grew up fully but I’ve always lived in the thought process of your generation, even in Algebra class when the teacher told me I had to complete it her way even though I had the right answer.

        I am a collaborative leader, so I try to give the vision away and I’m fine if the end product I delegated looks different. One of the links in this post points to a post about giving away the vision. Totally agree. Good thoughts
        Twitter: Ronedmondson

  3. Hey Ron,
    Great post. I think I've mentioned this added component to delegating here before. Sometimes we delegate a task to someone, not because we want to get things off our plate, but because it's an area where that person needs to grow. In fact it might take more time as we coach and work with that person through the process.
    That's part of being a transformational leader.
    I really do appreciate your posts.
    Blessings,
    Dave

  4. Ron,

    You're laying out a great approach. I'll add, delegate vision before delegating tasks. I think I'm going to have to write a blog on that one.

    I'm with you on getting out of the way. http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/g

    On another not, you asked me to let you know what I thought of "The War of Art." — LOVE IT. Suggest you get it. It's simple, easy to read and scattered through it are nuggets of wisdom that enhance my perspective and give me things I can say to others that will help them.

    Regards,

    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell

    • Thanks Dan. I totally agree with you and I guess I considered delegating vision as the “assumed” in this equation. I assume people that a leader would delegate a task to already own the vision. One of the links I have points to a post about leaders giving away their vision.

      Thanks for letting me in on the book. I’ll add it to my Kindle.

      Let me know if you write that post!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

    • Dan,
      I love that view of delegating — delegating vision before tasks. I wonder if when you do that it's easier to do more than just delegate, but to empower as well. Tony Morgan helped our staff team out with that concept and it has given us more breathing space in our ministry.
      Blessings,
      Dave