The Three Levers of Delegation Hydraulics (part 2 of 3)

By Tom Davidson

In addition to a change in attitude, delegation takes different skills than doing the job one’s self. Here are a few of the critical decisions: 

It took a change in wood-splitting habits for me to think more clearly about what prevents new managers from delegating work more fully and well to others. As outlined in part one of this series, I had an “old school” attitude about cutting and splitting my own firewood by hand. 

But even though I valued the work itself and could do it by myself, the time it would take to split another season or two of firewood had become hard to rationalize. So I rented a hydraulic wood splitter for half a day and $65 and changed my attitude for good. 

What does this have to do with delegation? 

  1. Mindset – The biggest hurdle to delegating our work to others is our own attitude; the self-induced need to do the job one’s self rather than appropriately relying on others.
  2. Skills – The understanding that delegation is not abdicating responsibility for a job, it’s using different skills to get more work accomplished and freeing one’s self to use limited time more wisely.
  3. Follow through – The need to maintain contact, care and control of an important task remains, even though the job is being done differently or by someone else.

Yesterday’s blog focused on mindset. We’ll discuss skills today and follow through tomorrow in this blog series. 

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he describes the finding that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. While I probably don’t have that many hours splitting firewood by hand, I’ve probably swung an axe, splitting maul or sledge hammer (against wedges) at least that many times over the years! As a result, I developed a certain skill in doing so, nothing anyone would pay me to do, but a skill with some utility around a house in the country! 

To use a wood splitter would require different skills, some of which I had and some which I didn’t. Anytime we have to use a new skill, we have a choice: rely on the ones we know or try something new that we might not be very good at right away. 

Delegation is like that for new managers. They know how to do the job themselves but aren’t too sure about how to get others to it and do it well. 

With the wood splitter, I needed to be able to hitch, haul and back the wood splitter into position with my truck, when all I had to do before was walk to the woodpile with my axe!
With the wood splitter, I needed to position the wood chunks on end and hold them in position while lowering the hydraulic wedge with the other hand – safely. With my hand tools, all I had to do was swing the splitting maul!
With the wood splitter, I needed to maintain the engine with fuel and other mechanics, when all I had to do was get a snack and a drink to continue splitting with my hand tools!

In addition to a change in attitude (see part 1 of this blog series), delegation takes different skills than doing the job one’s self. Here are a few of the critical decisions: 

– Decide what to delegate, keeping in mind that if someone other than you can do it, they probably should.
– Decide whom to delegate to, keeping in mind each person’s readiness, workload and desire to learn.
– Decide how much to delegate, keeping in mind that simple tasks (or parts of larger jobs) are easier “baby steps” for novice delegates, whereas responsibilities (with more decision-making authority and less oversight) are more appropriate for more experienced delegates. 

Check out tomorrow’s blog post in this series for the final installment of “Delegation Hydraulics,” which has to do with follow through.

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