Delegation Not Abdication

A common mistake for early managers is to delegate work ineffectively. They try to do what they think their direct reports would want—assign a task and be completely hands-off. It’s the right instinct but seldom yields the right results. Problems occur when mistaking abdication for delegation.

Delegation is ensuring the person has what they need to accomplish the task and setting expectations about what needs to be done. If the person doesn’t have the ability or resources to do the work then it won’t get done and you’ve failed to delegate. If the person doesn’t know what needs to be done or you don’t check to make sure it is done well, you’ve failed to delegate.

As a manager, you are responsible for results. If your reports fail, you’ve failed. You need to successfully enable people to do work, check it, and make sure what comes out is of high quality.

Delegation is an active process. Abdication is a passive process.

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