The art of delegation – 2

I worked for some years as a civil servant, so I know how institutional delegation works. When you write a letter to the head of a government parastatal, he simply minutes it to the immediate subordinate, who also does the same to his immediate subordinate. This goes on until it gets to the most junior person in the relevant hierarchy who now has to do all the research and get necessary information that will guide the decision-making process. When he has done the needful, he passes the correspondence up the line for inputs in the same way that it came down until it gets to the original addressee who is now sufficiently informed to ratify a recommended line of action to be reflected in a reply to the writer.

There are four ways by which a leader can handle any task. The first is to immediately set out to do it by himself, either because of the required level of competence which no one else in the organization may have or the limitations of time required for the task.

The second possibility is to defer the execution. This is usually done when he is satisfied that there is no urgency to the task and so, it can wait till a later time. Sometimes, a task may be deferred because there is not enough information to effectively follow an immediate course of action.

Another possible line of action is to delegate the job to a trusted subordinate who has the capacity to execute it on his behalf or at least assist significantly in getting it done. Finally, a leader may decide that the task is not worth his time and attention at all. He may also be convinced that it is not even important enough to be delegated to a subordinate. So he discards it.

Why is it important for a leader to delegate?

Delegation enables a leader to reproduce himself in others. A leader’s success is not a function of how much he is able to do but how much he is able to do through others. True success is a function of the leader’s capacity to multiply his achievements not by the quantum of work he personally does but by his ability to empower others to perform.

Furthermore, delegation enables a leader to free up time and energy (physical and emotional) to engage in things that may be equally or more important like family, holidays or recreation. Leaders with a Messiah Complex hardly have time to take a break. Because of the delusion of indispensability that they operate in, they always take on more than they can handle. Consequently, they can work for long periods without a break. In the process, they end up being like strangers to their family, hermits to their friends and irritants to their colleagues.

Delegation of assignments facilitates corporate growth and enhancement of the bottom-line because more gets done than if one person was doing the bulk of what needs to be done. Shared work makes it possible to get more done in less time. Synergy is always an impact multiplier.

Leaders who delegate make it easy to define the boundaries of their subordinates’ competence. It is difficult if not impossible to know what anyone can do until they are given specific assignments to carry out. No man’s capacity is known until he is tested with responsibility. Until he shares responsibility, a leader cannot know how to effectively position the people that work with him. People function at their ultimate when they are given responsibilities that match their competence and passion.

A delegating leader enables the delegate to develop confidence in his capacity. Some years ago in our church, we were preparing for a convention. The needs were many because of the guests we were expecting and the budget we drew up. One of the areas where we needed expertise was in decorating the church. A few days before the D-day, I was having a meeting with one of the committees we set up for the planning. For some reason I could not fathom at that time, we decided to ask a particular member of the church to take care of decorating the church. She was to work with a service provider and give us a list of materials that would be required and cost. Rather, she decided to do it by herself with the cooperation of a few members of the church. We were all amazed at what she came up with!  It was simply stunning! Up until this time, this lady had never volunteered her service especially in this area. Thereafter, she became our in-house decorator till she left the church on relocating abroad. Even though she was a full-time nurse at the time, she went ahead to make some extra cash by providing this service to some other churches and people who had social events that required decoration. Encouraged by what she did, it was not difficult to get someone else who took over from where she stopped. Delegated responsibilities with the power of execution enhance continuous learning and confidence-building.

Sometime ago, a survey of pastoral ministry in the USA indicated that as many as two thousand pastors were either dying or quitting ministry annually as a result of burnout and exhaustion. Yours truly once walked through that valley where my life was almost truncated from too much work-related stress and very little sleep. In fact, there was a time in my life when I was almost convinced that sleeping for an extended period of time was a sin! Even till date, I am a late sleeper and find it difficult to sleep too deeply for more than a few hours at a stretch. The difference is that I have learnt how to take naps as needed during the day to compensate for the hours lost at night. I had to learn polyphasic sleeping by force! I also learnt to shut down and take a break when it appears that my work schedule is becoming too crowded. If anything at all, it is that these days, I could as well be accused of delegating too much!

I once read of an insurance company in the USA that set the premium paid by pastors very high. Their reason was that the heart of the average thirty-five-year old pastor tested like that of a sixty-five-year old! This situation is however not peculiar to pastors. It applies to anyone who bites more than he can chew when it comes to work.

When work is shared, it facilitates and speeds up the execution of plans, making it easier to meet deadlines. When a leader keeps all plans and strategies to his chest, he keeps his followers guessing and unable to understand corporate direction. Moreover, several of his followers actually begin to doubt their own competence. A hug-it-to-your-chest leader who cannot trust or develop the competence of others is the number one morale-dampener in any organization.

Why do many people find it difficult to work themselves out of a job through delegation of duties?… continued.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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