Roy Osing (@RoyOsing), former executive vice-president of Telus, is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series, Be Different or Be Dead.
Mistakes leaders make more frequently than others are delegating too much and delegating inappropriately.
Most everything you read these days on what makes an effective leader stresses the importance of delegation and provides both advice and structure on how managers and leaders can improve their delegation skills.
Leadership pundits lump all matters of delegating into one basket. They don't differentiate between the routine tasks of leadership that should be handed off and the action leaders personally need to take to fulfill their strategic leadership role – actions where the fingerprints of the leader are critical if expected outcomes are to be achieved.
The message promulgated is that if a leader doesn't delegate what they do, they are not functioning effectively.
It's one thing to say that a routine mechanical task should be handed off to someone else, but it's quite another to suggest that a strategic role should be assigned (even with accountability) to a lower level in the organization.
Delegation of a strategic role can approach abdication – "dump-and-run" behaviour – which does nothing to serve the purpose of effective leadership or enterprise value creation.
Leaders should explore how they can be more efficient and delegate tasks, but they should not delegate the actions critical to delivering the organization's strategy.
Strategic actions require the fingerprints of a leader who is a master at do-it-yourself.
Here are five jobs for the DIY leader:
Communication of the strategic game plan
No one else should be discussing strategy with employees. It's not a presentation, it's a conversation and the leader must be front and centre.
Presence in execution
The plan has latent potential only; progress is only realized through execution. The leader's active engagement in "getting it done" in the trenches is absolutely essential. Employees are stirred by the leader's willingness to "get dirty" and help them perform their role and realize their potential.
Architecting the 'customer moment'
The picture of what it looks like to serve customers in an exemplary manner must be painted by the leader. The detailed stokes to be painted by each employee can only be described by the one who created the vision. Delegating this work generally results in vague tactics communicated to implementers and dysfunctional behaviour throughout the organization.
Auditing value compliance
Yes, you can hire a third-party research firm to determine the extent to which organizational values are being expressed in the workplace. But the facts you get are unidimensional; they are devoid of any emotional data that provides insight into the passion people feel for the underlying principles. Leaders must schedule time on their calendar to walk about and discover the real commitment to the values espoused by leadership.
Interview potential front-line manager candidates
And be involved in the selection process. Here's my premise: If strategy execution depends on the performance of the front line (and it does) and front-line performance is influenced by front-line management (and it is), then leadership must be involved in the decision to recruit the folks who manage the front line. Period.
This is beyond HR and is a huge do-it-yourself imperative for leaders.
The decision to delegate should not be based on improving the "efficiency" of the leader, nor should it be a decision to comply with expert opinion. Delegation that drains organizational performance should be replaced by DIY.