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"Delegating isn't about giving people tasks to do. Tasks are the simple and short-term items of work to be done. Delegating is about having staff take on juicy or meaningful work..." Marty Brounstein

Delegation is the only way to conquer your to-do list, but it is equally beneficial for your people. Through effective delegation of this meaningful work, they develop and hone skills. They progress and are motivated to continue growing. They become leaders. The question for you is how do you determine who gets the juicy assignments - and all of the value that tackling them extends?

A Moot Question?

Most small to medium businesses do not have the luxury of pondering the question: "Who gets this task or that task?" The answer is, "Whoever we've got." Because functional areas are so specific and smaller organizations typically have little depth, there often isn't a multitude of people from whom to choose. It's not a matter of choosing Jim because he has the know-how; or Mary because she needs development in this particular area; or Sue because she's interested in this type of work. It's Jim, because Jim is literally the only one who can do it.

If there is an opportunity for cross-functional training or development in small businesses, leaders have to balance it against workload. Likely, employees are working hard; they're already at, or beyond, capacity. In this environment, getting the work done often takes precedence over development. That's the reality.

A Different Reality

Reality looks quite different in a larger organization. Here, leaders can think about assigning responsibilities based on a variety of factors, including who can benefit most from them, who is most interested in them, who needs training in that area?

You have the luxury of shifting the focus away from simply getting the work done to getting the work done and developing your people. For example, maybe Jim does have the know-how to handle a particular task, but Sue could really use the experience. You decide that this is the strategic priority.

Because of this shift, the standards you set for each direct-report when completing a delegated task, as well as the manner in which you will evaluate them, vary. Here, it is useful to incorporate Paul Schempp's 5 Steps to Expert.

Using 5 Steps to Expert to Evaluate Your Direct-Reports

Schempp argues that there are five steps in the journey from beginner to expert:
  1. Beginner.
  2. Capable.
  3. Competent.
  4. Proficient.
  5. Expert.

Let's say Jim is either proficient or an expert. You delegate a task to him, and you expect that he will deliver excellent results. He's like a Major League Baseball player: you expect he will perform because he has proven such at the highest level.

Sue, on the other hand, is a beginner in terms of this task. She's going to need guidance and direction. If Jim's an MLB star, Sue's a Little Leaguer who's learning how to catch the baseball. This is the standard to which you hold her. She will not deliver results like Jim right off the bat - no pun intended - but that is not the goal of this particular delegation.

The goal is development.

Sometimes, you don't get to choose who gets the "juicy" assignments because you just don't have the staff. You don't get to prioritize development over task completion. If you do have the opportunity, though, seize it. It'll help you grow your people and your organization.


Larry Hart

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