Volume 66, September 2006: Delegation

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2006 ISSN # 1545-8873

Letters from Lincoln on Leadership (1993)

To McClellan, 10-13-63: This letter is in no sense an order.”

To Halleck, 9-13-63: I hope you will consider it …”

To Banks, 1-13-64: Frame orders, and fix times and places, for this, and that, according to your own judgment.”

To Grant, 4-30-64: If there is anything wanting, which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it.”


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Tending to the social contract of relationships.
  • Viewing delegation as a request.
  • Empowering doers though pull, not push, strategies.
  • Seeing more in others than they do, and drawing them out through the language of possibility.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

You extend your power by giving it away. The strongest leaders distribute leadership. They delegate, but without abandonment. They remain in a coaching, supportive role. If you do not trust others to perform at their best, then you will have to check up on them, control their work, and ultimately do it for them. However, when you truly believe that others are competent, want to do a good job, and are eager to learn, this is what your workforce will be like. Rosenthal & Jacobson (2003) researched this “Pygmalion phenomenon” – which has proved repeatedly that if you expect people to do well, they will. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. What you focus on is what you get.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Agreements? Contracts? Are you talking legal?”
More social than legal. If employees are viewed as partners, then delegation is a process of making requests rather than giving orders. This is empowering and communicates equality, because it gives people choice. Stephen Covey (1989, 1992) talks about “Stewardship Delegation,” in which you focus on results instead of methods. Stewardship Delegation involves clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations. This gives staff the freedom to use their own approach to getting work done.
“How should I delegate?”
Form an agreement, adult to adult. Effective delegating includes the following:
  • Make a clear request.
  • Specify desired results (expectation, goal).
  • Check for understanding.
  • Explain all constraints, including timing, budget, etc.
  • Ask for their ideas, questions and suggestions.
  • Provide support and resources, including training.
  • Complete the do-loop of accountability: “And report back by ____.”
  • Thank them.
  • Let go.

Provide feedback on the results, but always honor the effort.

“I have heard it said that ‘You can buy people’s hands, but not their hearts.’ Can you explain?”
Leaders have a choice in methods of influence. Push strategies include things like coercion, intimidation, manipulation, and structural fixes, like changing their jobs. Money, perqs, rewards, extrinsic motivators. These may buy compliance, but not commitment. “Hands.” Pull strategies are more like persuasion, education, modeling the way, and inspiration. A vision is something that people can walk into by choice. It kindles desire, aspiration, longing, intrinsic motivation. Here you might achieve commitment. “Heart.”
“What is this ‘language of possibility’?”
For years, many employees have been told by superiors, or treated in ways that suggest, they are not capable. This messaging starts early in childhood: 85% of what is said to children is about what they could not do or how what they were doing was wrong. This leads to fearfulness, lack of self-efficacy, powerlessness, hopelessness, and a victim posture. It is better for this person to avoid playing to win, for fear of losing. The language of possibility sounds like:
  • “We’ll create it the way we want it.”
  • “No doubt we’ll achieve …”
  • “;I see in you …”
  • “You will run this company some day.”


Courseware for the Art of Delegation: Delegation: The Art of Delegating Effectively.

Manager as Leader workshop – use Vision: How to be a Good Leader.

How to write delegation letters.

Free personal and organizational development: Delegation.

Key Associates offers

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Four simple steps to effective delegation: http://articles.pagepolisher.com/001.html?gclid=CMHvjd6s0YcCFQELOAodYCEaAA.

The ups and downs of delegating: http://www.impactfactory.com/p/delegation_skills_training/snacks_1717-2103-64621.html.

Tannenbaum & Schmidt team choice model: http://www.businessballs.com/delegation.htm.

Keyzines on related topics: Coaching, Spirit at Work, Trust & Integrity, Employees as Customers, Bureaucracy, and The Power of Vision.



Buy MK’s latest book!