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Sep 12, 2014
This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.

Editor’s Note: Readers frequently ask about past TLNT articles. That’s why we republish a Classic TLNT post every Friday.

Creating future “owners. That’s the job of a leader.

That means cultivating team members who “own” the vision like we do, not merely directing a group of people who “rent” the vision. If leaders fail to delegate responsibilities, they will never fully develop “owners.”

To put it in perspective of a leader, when “I” am unable to both delegate projects and develop people:

  • Only I will feel the weight of responsibility for the future of the organization.
  • I’ll never develop the skills in potential leadersthey’ll need for their future.
  • I’ll eventually frustrate myself and any good team members in the office.
  • I won’t see the results that could occur by developing other “owners.”
  • Students will not learn the lessons that only failure and “ownership” can teach.
  • The vision is diminished since I’ve failed to lead the organization beyond me.

Leaders know “the buck stops here.” But, if the buck stops with the one in charge alone, the most we can hope for is the best organization that one person can build.

Four stages leaders usually experience

In my personal leadership journey, and the journeys of other entrepreneurs and business owners, I’ve noticed four distinct stages…

  • STAGE #1: DOING (I believe if it is going to be done right, I must do it myself.)
  • STAGE #2: DUMPING (Soon, I burn out, so I begin dumping work on others.)
  • STAGE #3: DELEGATING (I realize people leave if I dump, so I prepare and delegate.)
  • STAGE #4: DEVELOPING (I ultimately see delegating is a means to develop people.)

As leaders experience the sequence above, they expand their vision. The scope of the work, the perspective of the leader and the recognition of what really matters deepens.

The leader progresses from being the central figure doing the tasks to being the catalyst, helping others become central figures in the process. Their fulfillment moves from doing the work to empowering others to do the work. It’s almost the same feeling a parent receives from watching their kids become self-sufficient.

The primary reward is not merely that the project is completed, but the people are completed. This often happens only when the vision of the project is so big, it requires more than one person to pull it off.

Developing people while you’re delegating work

All healthy leaders want their team members to grow and flourish. Their job isn’t just about getting rid of some of the workload — it’s about growing the people around them, as those people learn to take on more responsibility. It’s a double win.

So, if this is true, how does a leader develop a person while delegating a project? Consider the following steps on the journey.

  1. Know yourself — be familiar with the strengths you pass on to them in the work.
  2. Know the person you’re developing — be familiar with their strengths, weaknesses.
  3. Clearly define the assignments — don’t leave anything to question; write it down.
  4. Teach the “why” behind the assignment — let them know why it is important.
  5. Discuss their growth process, as you go — talk about how they will grow from it.
  6. Spend relational time with them — invest time when you’re not discussing work.
  7. Allow them to watch you perform — let them observe and get feedback from you.
  8. Give them the resources they need — provide the tools to do the job.
  9. Encourage them to journal during the process — help them interpret their growth.
  10. Hold them accountable for the project — get permission to keep them in line.
  11. Give them the freedom to fail — communicate that they can learn as they go.
  12. Debrief and affirm regularly — encourage them along the way as they succeed.

Questions for reflection

  • Do you tend to be a “doer,” a “dumper,” a “delegator,” or a “developer?”
  • What prevents you from delegating more efficiently?
  • From the list above, what should you add to your present practices?
  • Do you have team members that you could delegate almost anything to right now?
This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.
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