Do as I say

I watched the final episode of "The Apprentice" last week. I admit that I've become intrigued with how Donald Trump leads the contestants vying for a coveted position in his company. In the last episode, two young men each lead a team to oversee a major fundraising event. At the end of the night, the final decision of who would be hired boiled down to the success (or in this case the failure) of one key issue leadership skill... delegation.

Each team leader had to delegate to his team members a variety of tasks and responsibilities necessary for the success of the fundraiser. It was painful to watch as one person nearly sabotaged her team's project due to her irresponsibility and inattention to detail. While this wasn't the fault of the losing team's leader, he neither held her sufficiently accountable, removed her from the position, nor just plain fired her to protect the integrity of the project. In the end, it cost him the job.

If the losing team's leader had followed some of the principles of good project delegation, perhaps his career would be taking a different turn today. Could your sanity, your personal life, or even your business be at risk because you are an ineffective delegator? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you working much longer hours than everyone else you know who is doing the same kind of work that you do?
  • Are you spending too much time every day on tasks that could easily be delegated such as routine correspondence or non-priority phone calls?
  • Do you regularly feel overwhelmed by how much work you have to do or spread too thin?
  • Do you doubt you could select competent people to delegate to?
  • Do you dwell on past delegating mistakes or disasters?
  • Are you a perfectionist?
  • Has anyone told you that you always need to be in control — of others, of situations, of tasks, of work?
  • Are you unwilling to delegate the responsibility for the entire job, along with a specific task?
  • Are you missing deadlines even though you are working constantly, efficiently and effectively because there is simply just too much for one person to do?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the above questions, you probably need help with delegating. Delegating, as a leadership tool, is the act of assigning and entrusting assignments and responsibilities to others. It isn't about giving people tasks—the simple and short-term items of work to be done. Delegating is about having staff take on juicy or meaningful work—projects, duties, and other important assignments. Delegating can benefit both workers and managers alike when you delegate the right tasks to the right people in the right way.

We've provided some tips for successful delegating, as well as additional up- and downsides of delegating.

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