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Passing the Ball

“Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it…Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” – David Ogilvy

Delegation is one of the most essential skills to master as a leader and one of the more challenging. Done well, it’s the fundamental behavior that impacts the culture, execution, and the bottom line. And, it creates inclusive leaders, flexible businesses, and the fostering of leaders in each seat in the organization.

Of course: there are plenty of reasons why we do it, and plenty of reasons why we don’t. 

In this excellent podcast conversation with my colleague Virginia Bauman, we unpack delegation in all of its facets and workplace relational complexity. 

Delegation is not just about tossing ‘the thing that needs to get done’ to someone. The art of delegation is setting the thing up for success at the outset. Am I tossing this to the right person? What is their readiness? How do we talk about that? What context do they need to do this thing well?

The relational skills needed to lead well converge around delegation because the cooperative, relationship-driven dynamic of delegation is inherent. As leaders, we must not only look at our own capacity for it, but evaluate others’ capacity as well, and then invest in the relationship that will hold the commitment. 

Solid communication skills and trust are key components to delegation gone well. Moreover, as a leader, leaning into the aspects of trust can be a useful rubric for sorting out what feedback may need to be given, what expectations may need to be reset, and considering where it may be worthwhile to allow trust to be reinforced. 

Delegation done well also creates a record and a map for accountability which can be used for managing up as well as managing your direct reports. In other words: if your leader is too busy to do this with you, you can ask for it. Not only does this foster having leaders in every seat in the organization, but this process of documentation can be very supportive for everyone, including those with neurodivergence. 

Use the following Readiness vs. Importance exercise to help inform your decisions to delegate or not. 

The Readiness vs. Importance Exercise

a.) Think of a task or project that you want to delegate. Identify a person who might be able to complete the work. Use the graph below to plot them on the grid.

b.) Have a plan when you delegate. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you’re considering all of the pieces to the delegation puzzle.

  1. How will you hand off the work to them? What context will you provide? What expectations will you set?
  2. What questions will you ask them to understand their readiness?
  3. When will you check in and provide feedback? How frequently?
  4. How will you connect it to their goals and motivations?


Connect. Think. Lead. Adapted from the forward I wrote to a friend’s new book… Connect. Think. Do. I’d first gotten the call, an inquiry call for coaching, two weeks previous. In a follow-up…
Since Feeling is First My most favorite lines of poetry are from ee cummings: since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss…
Being & Doing “What you are will show, ultimately. Start now, every day, becoming, in your actions, your regular actions, what you would like to become in the bigger scheme of things.” —…



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