Slide 1

The Art of Delegation

Why do some leaders hatedelegating?

The trouble is, if it’s not done properly delegation does have a bad reputation.

When asked “Why do you hate delegating stuff?” people often respond with:

  • It’s quicker to do it myself

  • Work never gets done the way I like it to be done

  • By the time I’ve told them how to do it I might as well have done it anyway

  • My team are too busy to give them anything else

  • Getting people to do my work makes me feel lazy

  • I’m not able to trust my team.

These types of comments are indicative of a bigger picture which I’m going to explore. Getting delegation right is a skill with long term benefits. It is not a “sticky plaster” fix. It is something to get good at because the rewards will come back to you further down the line. Viewing delegation as “getting rid of something” onto someone else is not delegating. That’s dumping on someone.

The brutal truth is that you can only have a successful and sustainable business if delegating is part of the leadership culture. It does not stand in isolation. It is part of effective leading. Delegation goes wrong – for example here’s a true story (adapted from

Maria started work at the toy factory. She had her induction training day. She was enthusiastic and attentive. Brian was pleased he had got himself a good worker. Maria listened carefully and returned to work the next day ready to get stuck in and prove herself. She was working on the “Tickle Me Elmo” production line. Brian came out of the office to see how she was doing and couldn’t believe his eyes. He was disappointed to find Maria was very behind in her work. It was all piling up around her. She was getting very stressed and looked horrified.

Brian went over to investigate. He found the problem. Maria was bent over with a sewing needle and threads, some felt, some scissors and a packet of marbles. She was carefully cutting small sections of the felt materials, wrapping it around two marbles to cover them and painstakingly sewing them onto Elmo between his legs. Brian realised he had not been clear enough with his instructions…..

I ask you to give Elmo two “Test Tickles”

How much time is wasted through inadequate delegation?

Why delegate?

If it’s viewed so badly and it can go wrong, why are leaders urged to delegate?

Delegation – a definition (Google): to entrust (verb) a task or a responsibility to another person – typically one who is less senior than oneself.

The issue is that as a leader you have a value which goes beyond your worth generated by just “doing stuff”. The value comes from much more than that. A doer has a certain value, but as a person paid to lead the organisation onwards, you need to be able to see clearly and step back from getting too bogged down in day to day things.

It’s true that you can do anything, but equally true you can’t do everything.

Saying yes to one thing is saying no to something else. What are you not doing because you are not delegating?

The art of delegation is to make sure that you are doing things that really make the best use of your skills.

Let’s look at each of the common moans or pet hates about delegation:

It’s quicker to do it myself

This may be true in the short term but how many times will you “do it yourself”? Add those all up and it’s not really quicker.

Also you may be using your time on something which is at the expense of doing something much more impactful. It’s the opportunity cost of what you are not doing that is a hidden cost.

Work never gets done the way I like it to be done

This comes down to the ability to let go. Not letting go could be holding your company and your career back. It’s about learning to risk a little to gain a reward.

It can also be about communicating properly so that the other person does the work exactly the way you need it to be done. Is it that the delegation is the problem, or is it about being too busy to explain the work clearly?

By the time I’ve told them how to do it I might as well have done it anyway

This could be true, but thinking about the longer term is crucial for a sustainable business. Take this to the extreme and there would never be any staff development. Nothing would change and nobody would grow or develop. It also says to the other people you could delegate to that there is no future. It is a real turn off to have a leader who won’t delegate. This can lead to low morale and low productivity. The other person’s worth is diminished.

The art of good delegation is part of progression planning.

You need to constantly developing your team for the organisation to be excellent.

My team are too busy to give them anything else

This could be true - but you need to be sure that you are not assuming this. If there is a chance for someone else to step up to doing something more challenging and stimulating they may well leap at the chance. It could be that there is no capacity, but be sure of this before making this decision yourself. If you are not careful, you may be guilty of only ever delegation boring routine tasks. That wouldn’t be good long term. You want to be a leader who is developing your team not dumping on them. Teaching your team effective time management is crucial. Role modelling it is too.

A key part of the art of delegating is knowing what to delegate and to whom.

Getting people to do my work makes me feel lazy

This is common as leaders feel proud to be able to cope – especially when they are first promoted to a leadership role. They feel they have to prove themselves to be on top of everything.

It might feel like asking someone to take on something from you looks like you are not coping. You really have to think hard about this. Your headspace to be that of a leader and delegating is one facets of leadership. All your other leadership skills come into play here. The right mind set to lead and the right communication skills are key. Without these delegation is much harder.

It is much more about, not the fact that you are delegating. You really need to know your team and their capabilities and to know about their workload. |You also need to feel like a confident leader to get this right.

I’m not able to trust my team.

This is a big issue. You can only gain trust if you give trust. If you don’t trust them, they won’t trust you. Trust is vital to any organisation. You are only a leader if you have followers. If you want people to follow you they need to trust you! So you need to trust them.

Why is it important? Stephen Covey (the world famous leadership guru who has spent decades studying effective leadership and the impact it has on successful organisations) says this about his research:

“My experience is that significant distrust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done. Trust is like a performance multiplier, enabling organisations to succeed in their communications, interactions, and decisions, and to move with incredible speed. A recent Watson Wyatt study showed that high trust companies outperform low trust companies by nearly 300%!  ”

Therefore not trusting your team will mean you cannot be an effective leader.

A quick guide to generating trust from Covey’s work: 13 Behaviours of High-Trust Leaders Worldwide

1. Talk Straight
2. Demonstrate Respect
3. Create Transparency
4. Right Wrongs
5. Show Loyalty
6. Deliver Results
7. Get Better

8. Confront Reality
9. Clarify Expectation
10. Practice Accountability
11. Listen First
12. Keep Commitments
13. Extend Trust

Delegation is about balance

The key is balancing your needs with the needs of the person you are delegating to.

Your needs

  • Time to plan

  • WHAT the task details the OBJECTIVE – these need to be SMART (specific, measureable, agreed & action based, realistic and time bound)

  • HOW you want the task done

  • How much freedom you are prepared to give

  • Information on progress and time scales

The person’s needs:

  • The chance to discuss the work

  • Instructions he/she can understand

  • Support

  • The authority to proceed

  • Confidence, skills

  • Time to ask questions

Delegation is not abdication.

Remember that despite delegating the work to someone else it you remain accountable.

Definition - Accountability means having the responsibility and authority to act and fully accept the natural and logical consequences for the results of those actions. You cannot delegate accountability.

There needs to be a culture of accountability for this to work well. This means that there is a climate where people can speak openly, admit to mistakes without fear, and worry more about serving the customer (and the team) than saving face.

This starts at the top of the organisation and must be demonstrated most significantly by leaders. You cannot expect others to live this way if the leadership team does not do this themselves….

Great leaders are those who always look to praise their team when things go well (not taking the credit) but when things go wrong they look to themselves to remain accountable. It all starts with you, the leader.

There are 16 steps to effective delegation:

  1. Set time aside to plan and prepare how to delegate effectively. Make notes to share.

  2. Discuss and define the decision-making processes. Clarify on authority. Write down what you agree.

  3. Agree what can the person can decide, and when should they defer to you. Record this clearly.

  4. Explain why the task needs doing and why you have chosen this person to do it.

  5. Find out how they feel about the task. Are they happy to rise to the challenge? Do they have any fears or concerns?

  6. Reassure the person over any fears or concerns. Give time and permission for asking questions.

  7. Give details about what exactly needs doing by when, including any flexibility there is. Note this clearly.

  8. Set a SMART objective. (Specific, measureable, agreed/action-based, realistic, time-bound). Record these details.

  9. Agree the next steps and how they would be best achieved. Check how the objective will be broken down. Write this down.

  10. Check understanding of the result you are looking to achieve and how the task fits into the wider picture is understood.

  11. Discuss the significance the outcome will make.

  12. Agree a timeline for progress reports and agree how monitoring will occur. Record this for reference.

  13. Ask if there are any questions.

  14. CHECK AND CLARIFY UNDERSTANDING and TIMESCALES (ask person to feedback)

  15. Remain accountable

  16. Check in regularly as per the agreement to feedback, redirect and praise

If you would like to learn more about effective leadership please call 07545217966. Or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

PART 2: 6 of the 12 key questions Jim Collins asks leaders

Great Learning from the Great Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

What is it that good companies do to make that shift to greatness? What if a business expert spent 25 years studying every detail of several businesses which have managed to go from a good track record and leap forward to outstanding results (about 10 times their previous success) and maintain it for at least 15 years AND compare these to those who just didn’t do that?

Good to Great is one of Jim Collins highly influential and world famous books which has helped to move business leaders forward. This book details xactly that research.

Collins rarely comes to the UK, so when he did I leapt at the chance to see him. I wanted to further develop my understanding of the findings he has produced from his intensive research. In that morning, Collins set out to distill all the major learnings from Good to Great plus nuggets from a few of his other books by asking 12 questions. Here are the second 6 of the twelve questions he discussed that day: (The first six are in a previous blog.)

7) Do we show any signs of How the Mighty fall, and do we have enough Productive Paranoia to stay far above the Death Line.

Most great companies eventually fall. Since 1955 fewer than 15% are still in the Fortune 500

Most business have the framework of failure. It’s a disease that kills them off. Most are sick on the inside, healthy on the outside!

Collins says there are 5 stages of decline

  1. "Hubris born of success”. (Arrogance) In this stage people lose sight of what made them succeed in the first place and start to consider that they can succeed in anything

  2. "Undisciplined pursuit of more”, in which companies pursue more growth with undisciplined moves that do not fit into their core business. They either choose the wrong place to leap or the pace is too fast. Or both.

  3. Denial of risk and peril”, Here companies tend to amplify positive data and discount, or explain away, negative data. The numbers speak to the business but they are not listened to. Here leaders try “Game Changing” through either acquisition or by parachuting a new leader in. The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive

  4. Grasping for salvation”, in which the decline becomes visible to all. Mostly caused by denial. Here leaders do everything they can to halt the decline. Collins says the key is not to do everything at a hectic pace, but think what not to do with a focused approach.

  5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death”. Here, all the repeated unsuccessful attempts have drained both the company’s finances and leaders. There’s no turning back from this stage.

Part of this disease comes from bad decisions which are taken with good intentions. They are still bad.

8) How can we do a better job at Clock Building not just time telling?

In a nut shell Collins distinguishes between Time Tellers and Clock Builders like this:

Time tellers are geniuses with a thousand helpers (a recipe for failure )


Clock Builders build a business which doesn’t need you. If it cannot be great without you, it’s not a great company.

Collins says culture IS strategy. He says:

Imagine that you met a remarkable person who could look at the sun or the stars and, amazingly, state the exact time and date. Wouldn’t it be even more amazing still if, instead of telling the time, that person built a clock that could tell the time forever, even after he or she were dead and gone?”

Typically, executives devote a tiny percentage of their time and effort to gaining understanding, a tiny percentage to creating alignment, and the vast majority to documenting and writing a statement. In fact, the distribution of time and effort should be nearly the opposite. You should spend a significant percentage of time actually trying to gain understanding, a tiny percentage documenting that understanding, and the vast majority of your time creating alignment. In short, worry about what you do as an organization, not what you say.

9. Do we passionately embrace the Genius of the And – especially the fundamental dynamic of “Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress. “

Collins urges you to develop the rare ability to balance

  • Humility and will

  • Short term urgency and the long march

  • Creativity and discipline

  • Purpose and excellence

His mantra here is “Hold the purpose change the strategy”.

10. What are your BHAGs – our Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Having these forces you to do things. The best people want to do the hardest things.

As a side note, if you know for certain you can achieve it then it’s not a BHAG. Whilst discussing this Collins emphasized that:

We succeed at our best only when we help each other succeed

11. How much comes down to luck? Is this possible? Define and quantify the luck variable

  • Are the truly successful businesses luckier? Collins says no, emphatically.

  • Is there a lot of luck – good / bad. They are not luckier. They got make sure they get a higher return on the luck that comes their way.

  • What do you do with luck you get?

  • What luck? No who luck

12. What is on your stop doing list?

  • Work is infinite

  • Time is finite

  • Did good to great leaders choose to build a great company.

  • The bad news is that half the great leaders in his study truly had no life. They were obsessed with building a great company. The good news is that half did have good lives. It just depends on the nature of the person.

It was an amazing experience. I try to embed the principles of great leadership in all the companies I work with. Jim Collins describes transformational leadership and this is the journey I take the leaders on when I work with organisations.

The Hardest Leadership Soft Skill

This one leadership skill gives you the most significant impact, but do you give it the time it needs?

Listen as an expert listener. Focus completely on the person sending you a message.

We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.”. ― Zeno of Citium, as quoted by Diogenes Laërtius

This is a simple observation by Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy.

There is a reason we have two ears and just the one mouth. The fact is most people don’t realise the significance of this. Most average leaders listen with average skills. They will only ever get average results.

If you want to be an expert leader producing outstanding results then mastering listening skills is key.

But listening has been made even more difficult lately as there are so many more distractions in our lives. (Great article here: We are information rich and could be suffering from overload as technology “enhances” our experience. You need to try harder to focus on listening above these distractions.

Why are good listening skills so important? Well, it boils down to basic human nature. Ralph Nichols is known as the “Father of the Field of Listening,” and established the International Listening Association. He stated "The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." How much emphasis do you really place on the true art of listening in your leadership?

Steven Covey, (leadership expert and world famous author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change) says

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

My point is that effective listening is a skill which needs attention, as it can greatly improve your personal effectiveness and the level of success you have with your business (and your personal life!).

There are three levels of listening (Laura Whitworth, Co-Active Coaching).

  • Level 1: internal listening - awareness of ourselves. “What does this mean for me?” (Many people only ever achieve this level!)

  • Level 2: focused listening- you listen with all your senses. (It is great to be heard by someone who practices level 2 listening!)

  • Level 3: global listening - listening as though you were the other person, acute awareness and accessing your intuition. This takes great skill.

Most average leaders put too much emphasis on sending messages. This happens at many levels, internally, externally and in everyday interactions between the humans involved.

My view is that you should double the energy and focus placed on the second half of effective communication – the listening, i.e. two ears, one mouth. By doing this you will understand your people (internal and external ones) and this will be sure to produce improved results.

The hardest and most significant soft skill as a leader is to listen as a global listener. Leaders who use coaching skills develop as highly effective listeners. That’s what we specialise in with our Leadership Development packages, making expert leaders.

To find out more call or email and we can discuss how to help you become an outstanding leader who produces excellent results. We have a Leadership Booster Day April 21st where we cover some of the key aspects of effective leadership. Spaces are limited

Call to book, or book directly at:

Is your team truly compatible?

Ever wondered why you don’t get the results you really desire from your team?

Do you constantly have to deal with personality issues between team members?

Are you fed up with this taking up your time and restricting performance?

In an ideal world you would only build a team based on perfect profile matching. But let’s be honest, it’s rare to be able to do this. Most likely you will have a team of fairly good people who have ended up all working together but it might not be ideal.

You may be familiar with theories surrounding team behaviours such as the work of Belbin and his team roles or others like that. This is great to refer to when you are starting from scratch and you have the luxury of recruiting a complete set of people with ideal profiles to bring the best out in each other.

If this has not been the case then you may well have the common leadership headache of people clashing or at least people not working to bring out the best traits in each other.

You may find yourself spending plenty of time supporting people to overcome these differences to keep the team on track. This may suck up lots of valuable time unless you are a trained psychologist and can work this element of your skills set into your work load!

If, like most leaders, you have yet to submit your application to the OU to study psychology in your spare time, you will benefit from the support of a session with us to teach you how to work more closely (and effectively) to understand how to get each personality profile to work together in your team to improve results and to save time.

Empatico is a diagnostic tool which has been developed based on the work of Jung. It is the only psychometric test which can measure compatibility of team members against each other and each team member with the leader as well as measuring the whole team’s compatibility.

What is it?

Empatico is a compatibility tool that helps teams peform at optimum levels.

Compatibility scores are available for pairs (one to one level) and for teams as a whole. Compatibility can also be assessed between the team leader and the team members.

How can it help you?

On one level Emptaico provides profiles for each individual which can help each person understand his/her strengths and pitfalls. This is revealing and can help develop strategies to improve personal performance.

At the next level Empatico reveals how well pairs work together by assessing the behaviours of each personal profile and how they bring the best and worst out in each other. Tips and guidance is then available to support coaching to enhance performance.

At a deeper level the team’s pairings are rated to show high and low comtaibility and how to build the team to become stronger.

How does it work?

Each team member does the online assessment to discover his/her profile. This is done with an individual Empatico logon which is provided by us through New Level Results, our partners. The profile is stored securely and the team leader and our specially trained coach discuss the results.

A workshop is provided to support the team to understand their individual profiles and pairings.

Coaching is then provided to the team leader or to indidivuals to support the team to improve compatibilility and therefore improve results.

If you would like to reduce the time spent on incompatibility or would like to find out more about how Empatico can work for you please contact us on 01424 830000 or 07545217966. We can send you further details or provide a demo.

6 of the 12 key questions Jim Collins asks leaders

February 28th was one of those rare occasions that will stay with me forever. I got to listen to one of the world’s most respected experts on the topic of leading successful businesses. If you are not familiar with Jim Collins’ work (Good to Great, Built to Last, Great by Choice and others) then it would be wise to get stuck in.

Jim Collins and his team of researchers have spent 25 years studying what makes businesses great. It’s empirical research. The evidence is laid out for you.

The day I saw him it cemented so much of my previous understanding. He summarised his wealth of knowledge and experience into a solid morning of jam packed learning. I’d like to share it with you in a series of blogs.

This first one gives you the over view and the subsequent ones will break it down further.

Here’s the top layer which comes from the 12 questions took us through on the day:

  1. Are we willing to strive for Level 5 Leadership, and to embrace the 10X behaviours needed to build a great company or social enterprise?

If you’ve read Good to Great you will know what this means, if not you better had get on with it! What type of leaders can take an already good company and move it forwards to a massive uplift in results? You’ll be surprised by the findings. It’s not those “all singing, all dancing” charismatic leaders parachuted in. It’s more likely to be those diligent, earnest and humble leaders. When things go right they praise the team sincerely. When things go wrong they look in the mirror, taking personal responsibility for failure. The success of the business is more important that the personal ego.

  1. Do we practice the principle of First Who with the Right People on the Bus and in the right seats?

This makes you really look at your approach to hiring people and rigorously (not ruthlessly) developing the team. The relentless pursuit of the right attitude over and above the right skills is key. The people drive the system and the system drives the business. So get the right people on board first then decide what to do with them.

  1. What are the Brutal Facts and how can we better live the Stockdale Paradox?

Vice Admiral James Stockdale survived of the horrific ordeal of being a Vietnamese Prisoner of War. His experience has been studied by countless psychologists because he was so successful in his endeavours whilst a captive under horrific circumstances. There were many prisoners in the same situation as Stockdale, although they didn’t survive. They based all their survival efforts on being optimistic about their fate and hanging on for the day they would be rescued. Studies revealed that many died of broken hearts. They hoped for a release at Christmas, then Easter, then in the fall and so on. Their optimism wasn’t enough to keep them alive on its own.

Stockdale, on the other hand, coupled optimism with facing up to the brutal truth. Collins claims this as one of the six key concepts in his Good to Great Flywheel model.

Stockdale famously said “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade”

His efforts were channelled into accomplishments to defy the enemy and to take an element of control. He developed a tapping code to communicate with others, he sent a coded message home to his wife which relayed vital information about the enemy and he used a system of milestones to keep him alive.

Since the study of his ordeal the “Stockdale Paradox” has been discussed in leadership circles and it is simply this:

  • You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

  • AND at the same time…

  • You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

Many leaders fail to hear the brutal truth. The higher up in an organisation you get the less likely you can be to hear what you need to hear. Unless you crate the right culture.

  1. What do we understand about the Hedgehog Concept- what we are fanatically passionate about? What we can (and cannot) be the best at and what drives our economic or resources engine?

Good to Great sets out the Flywheel model and a crucial part of this is the Hedgehog Concept. Only when these three things are present does success occur:

  1. You are doing what you are passionate about (truly passionate, not what you can get passionate about if you have to)

  2. You are doing what you can do “Best in the World” i.e. leave alone those things at which you are only average

  3. You choose to measure profit in the right way.

You’ve really got to read the book to get this – or read another blog to follow!

5. How can we accelerate the clicks on the Fly Wheel by committing to a 20 mile march?

Collins explains that the Flywheel clicks slowly until everything is in place to get that change in momentum. He urges you to map out your FlyWheel – and to keep the consistency of a focus on the steady progress towards excellence. The reference comes from an expedition across the frozen continent by a famous team of explorers led by a formidable leader. How did they have success – they just kept on with the steady goal.” We just march 20 miles a day” Collins described two businesses to compare, one with sporadic success but higher than average rewards, with inconsistent bursts of results in a jerky and unpredictable manner, some great years, some rubbish ones, compared to a steady and reliable company producing consistent, lower and secure results over an upwards but steady curve. He favours the second. The steady march towards success with a clear focus and a consistent drive forwards wins hands down. Get the right focus and keep the clarity and keep marching forwards.

6. Where should we place our big bets, based on the principle “Fire Bullets , then cannon balls”- blending creativity and discipline to scale innovation?

It’s a great visual clue as to where the difference is between what supports success and what doesn’t. The calibration of ideas, methods and approaches before committing to something seems so obvious but few businesses try this. Having the patience and forethought to test and monitor first then to go ahead requires a mindset that ego driven leaders fail to exercise. Someone’s great idea needs to be trialled and the results reviewed. All too often the rush to do things efficiently overrides what would be effective and this can lead to failure.

Collins talks a great deal about discipline- not as you might think of it (the stick wielding brute ruling with a fist of iron is not what he means.) He means the disciplined thought, with disciplined actions of disciplined people (the right Who).

The next blog will continue with the next 6 of the 12 questions.

Rachel stone is a leadership coach and trainer who works to help businesses grow through expert leadership. If you are interested in developing a coaching culture in your leadership team call 01424 830000 or 07545217966 to book up for your free 90 minute consultation.