A Lesson in Delegation and Sharing Responsibilities

Regardless of your political orientation, there is this really interesting quote I like with which Newt Gingrich is credited as saying: “Lions cannot afford to hunt mice because they literally will starve to death, even if they catch them. Lions and all large carnivores have to hunt game large enough to justify the investment, so they have to hunt antelope and zebra. Why is this important? Because most senior executives are really big on chipmunks.”

The message is simple: as an executive/leader, you should not and cannot take on any and every task. Your time must be spent in a way that focuses on the creation of products and services, taking on new opportunities, and developing your people. In the end, your priorities should only deal should only be those tasks that are directly responsible for or related to moving the company forward. In other words, the antelope and zebra of the business world.

Delegation is not only beneficial to you, in that it frees your time to focus on these important matters, but it is also beneficial to employees. It builds trust and responsibility, which turns to motivation, and that motivation, in turn, drives employees to reach goals and go further, and that’s a win for everyone involved.

Here’s how to make it happen:

  • Designate your “go-to’s.” These are the people you trust to take on responsibility. The trust factor is a big deal here, so you need to make sure it exists or can be developed in those who receive delegation. Otherwise, you’re instead going to spend all your time worrying about it getting done or having it done correctly.

  • Be clear. When you delegate, you must pass along every bit of information you have regarding the task or project, including any resources and applicable contacts (other than yourself) where they can look for help. The more you can provide in this way, the less likely someone is going to come back to you looking for clarification or assistance.

  • Set a deadline. You will also need to be clear when it comes to deadlines so there is no confusion. Don’t be vague, either. Saying “2 or so weeks” is very vague. Set a deadline and stick to it.

  • Put it in writing. Where possible, put everything in writing. This will be a valuable resource to the employee, serving as a reference for them to use during the assignment, but it will also serve as a confirmation of everything that is communicated on or about it as well.

  • Give feedback. Don’t forget to comment on the job done, especially when done well. Employees will want to help out more if they know they’ve contributed and done so in line with your requirements.

The key is to stop taking it all on yourself. Even if you think you have it under control, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much better you’re able to focus on and complete the tasks that truly demand your attention.