The one mistake leaders make more frequently than others is they delegate too much and they delegate 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 to delegate 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 strategic 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. Yes, leaders should explore how they can be more efficient and delegate tasks, but no, 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 — Roy, DIY believer
These are five critical jobs for the DIY leader.
The DIY leader should take prime responsibility to communicate the strategic game plan to their organization. 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 to explain the planned strategic intent, provide needed clarifications, be challenged on its wisdom and answer specific questions on how it is likely to affect individuals performing particular roles.
Execution of the game plan
The DIY leader must be an active participant in the execution of the strategy; their presence must be continually felt big time. The plan in and of itself has latent potential only; achieving results and subsequent progress is gained only through flawless execution.
The leader’s active engagement in getting it done in the trenches is vital. And when the leader is getting down and dirty with employees to get things done, people in the organization see it and are motivated emotionally to raise their own game to see the strategy implemented.
The customer moment
The DIY leader must take personal ownership of architecting the customer moment; the picture of what it looks like to serve customers in an exemplary manner must be painted by the leader alone. It cannot be delegated to anyone else in the organization.
The detailed strokes of service — the behaviours expected of every employee when they are engaging with a customer — can only be described by the one who owns the vision for service. And this extends to the look, feel and functionality of the online experience as well and personal contact moments.
A standout leader is an artist who paints a vivid picture of what dazzling a customer moment looks like for all to see — Roy, moment leader.
In my experience, when this work is delegated to the subject matter experts in the organization there is always a gap between the strategic goal of wanting to serve customers in amazing fashion, and what is actually delivered in the field — how else can you explain why someone can wait for a rep in a call centre queue for up to an hour?
The DIY leader should take an active role in auditing how well the values of the organization are being expressed by employees in the workplace. Yes, you can hire a third party research firm to perform the study and get the data, but the study results are unidimensional; they are devoid of any emotional component that describes how people feel about behaving and interacting with fellow employees in the way the values require.
Leaders must schedule time on their calendar to walk-about and discover the real commitment to the values espoused by leadership. And during their walks, they must be looking for “How can I help?” moments to jump in and offer their personal assistance to solve employee problems in implementing the values of the organization.
Frontline management interviews
The DIY leader should be making room in their busy schedule to be engaged in the interview process for potential frontline manager candidates.
Here’s my premise: if strategy execution depends on the performance of the frontline — it does — and frontline performance is influenced by frontline management — it is — then leadership must be involved in the decision to recruit the folks who manage the frontline. Period.
How else can the leader be sure that customer moments in particular are being handled the right way by frontline staff? If managers don’t get it their frontline people won’t get it either.
If a leader doesn’t put their person stamp on the people being hired into their organization, they’re not doing their job — Roy, recruitment leader
This is a huge do-it-yourself imperative for leaders and it doesn’t have to be an arduous task. My personal solution was to have heavy involvement up front when I began the process and gradually reduce the amount of time I dedicated to this work over time when I was satisfied that more junior managers were understanding and believing in my direction. It didn’t take long for people on my management team to learn how to do the interviews and find the right candidates for the positions.
The decision to delegate should not be based on improving the efficiency of the leader.
Delegation that drains organizational performance should be replaced by DIY.