Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Delegation and the art of kite flying

I met a man a couple of weeks ago who just didn't get delegation. While he understood the need to push work down into his teams he was very reluctant to do so - "After all I am responsible and accountable - if anything goes wrong it is me that is going to get kicked, isn't it!" However his reluctance was more than this - he saw delegation as synonymous with abdication, and, I suspect, at the heart of it wasn't sure what value he added if he wasn't doing all the work. Unfortunately, he's not alone in this, I meet many leaders who fail to tap into the full capacities of their teams and whilst simultaneously bemoaning their overloaded schedules.

I think reluctance to delegate is partly to do with how we talk about. The language of delegation is often all about 'turning over' and 'letting go', empowerment of teams sounds a lot like a loss of control. What sane leader would want to 'let go' of something mission critical?  A refreshing alternative metaphor - suggested by an inspired course delegate - is kite flying. As a leader you learn to pay out more 'string' to your team as they get more adept and confident, reeling it back in if needs be. The kite never flies entirely freely, even if it is on a long, long line. The leader always retains a level of control even if it rarely applied.

I wonder if that thought would help my reluctant delegator...

Here's a link to a useful Harvard Business Review article "Why aren't you delegating ?"

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