Rolling the dice with delegation
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Rolling the dice with delegation

What was your boss thinking when you got promoted into a leadership role?

It turns out, your boss was feeling lucky.

Organizations know that finding one person proficient in a technical skill is difficult. Getting an entire team of people with equal, or similar, abilities is nearly impossible. So when you showed up with your technical proficiencies, your boss saw the potential for a jackpot.

Gambling on you
See, when you got promoted, your organization was making a gamble. They were wagering that if they gave you more money and responsibility, you’d be able to replicate your success in a team of individuals.

When organizations win this bet, they achieve the Holy Grail of delegation.

It’s called the “Multiplier Effect,” and it vastly enhances performance in two ways. First, when leaders succeed at knowledge transfer – that is, when they replicate the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors that made them successful – the organization gets an entire team of individuals performing at high levels. Second, the organization gets a leader who has the time to take on higher-level strategic activities, and make an even greater impact on organizational performance.

Four Flaws
But as with most gambles, your organization loses more often than it wins. Effective delegation is difficult to master, and most managers end up falling into one of Four Fatal Flaws:

  • Misunderstanding your role. Some managers view a promotion as a reward for their performance, and expect direct reports to do the manager’s work for them. But remember, delegation isn’t about the manager, it’s about Knowledge Transfer.
  • Micromanagement. Watching over an employee every moment of every day defeats the purpose of delegation. It means employees never get to own their tasks, and for managers, it means they’re forever mired in activities that stray from their strategic role. Micromanagement is appropriate with rank beginners and in a crisis, but as a sustained management style it’s destructive. Few micromanagers ever achieve the Multiplier Effect.
  • Lacking a development plan. A sink-or-swim approach rarely works. Instead, managers need a clear onboarding plan to help employees build their knowledge and skill base, while at the same time coaching and providing encouragement to help cultivate high performance.
  • Assuming success. Just like bad gamblers, some managers think that once they’ve succeeded once, it’s impossible for them to lose. The truth is, the transition from being an employee to a manager is rarely smooth. For managers, learning to delegate in a leadership role involves a complex, difficult transition. Most people struggle, especially at first. There’s no shame in going to your boss and saying, “This is harder than I thought. I need some guidance.”

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