Raise your wands if you’ve read or seen the Harry Potter books or films. If you have, then you have been privileged enough to witness an 11 year old expert delegator at work. (If you haven’t then where have you been?!).
In the very first installment, The Philosopher’s Stone, we see the clumsy but fiercely loyal best friend of the protagonist, Ron Weasley, delegate responsibility fantastically well. He hasn’t even learnt to brush his hair yet, but is able to contribute to the defeat of the literal embodiment of all that is evil in the world with complex and inspired leadership skills.
In case you don’t recall the key scene, it involves a huge game of medieval chess and some niftily brutal pawns. Here it is, below, but I will explain the key lines after the jump:
Ron takes charge of this crucial battle with steely courage and aplomb:
“Do you wanna stop Snape from getting that stone or not? Harry, it’s you that has to go on. I know it! Not me! Not Hermione! You! Knight to H-3. Check.”
Tremendous delegation there as you can see (What did you do when you were 11 uh?!)
How many children do you know that are expert delegators? Maybe you have children yourself and are now considering whether they are, or what on earth they might have done to be one. Ron surely has competition somewhere.
The rest of this post will discuss how you can be more like Ron Weasley (not the most frequently heard tagline, I must admit). Just as Rowling creates a great leader and an expert delegator in Ron, you can create a formidable leader in yourself with a bit of magic. (see what I did there?)
You need to be able to delegate though, as it will solve so many problems you didn’t think you had, and open so many avenues you never thought were there or worth investigating at all.
Delegation will make your life as a leader better threefold: 1) You will have more time. The reason you are the designated leader is because you are in charge of knowing and facilitating the direction in which the team is going. It’s hard to do that when all your time is taken up doing little tasks which amount to a big waste of time. Delegating these activities to others will free you up to own that direction. 2) If you don’t delegate tasks, how can you expect to do all of them well? It’s impossible. Share the load, delegate those tasks sideways and see your stress levels plummet. And 3) Who doesn’t like a bit of power? Giving your teammates responsibility will cement your position as their leader. They will trust in your judgement, and hopefully you will in theirs.
Nevertheless, it’s still tough call to know when or to whom you should delegate tasks.
Here’s a simple tip to help you along:
The 70 per-cent rule
If you are sure that the person you are delegating the task to will do the job 70% as well as you then delegate.
Why 70%? You’d expect that it would be at least a three figure number right? Well there is an uncomfortable truth here you need to face up to. You know that ideal, the perfect solution, the flawless execution? Forget it. It doesn’t happen like that in real life.
What effective delegation really does is it increases the odds of a task being completed successfully while simultaneously boosting productivity. While the person you have delegated to knuckles down to the project you could have busied yourself with, you can turn your attention to the high impact stuff: the reason why your section — your unit — is brilliant.
And there is a quiet beauty about that 70% figure (I’m sure it’s come under a fair bit of subconscious stick from you already, so here I am still fighting its corner). Yes, 70 seems like a great gaping chasm of failure away from 100 (“Why don’t I just do the job myself, I’d make it perfect, I’d make it 100% amazing!”). But consider what that act of delegation means:
- It tells the person you’ve delegated to that you trust them. To know that your leader has sent a task your way that they, without a shadow of a doubt, believe you can do is a pretty great feeling. It’s like when the teacher asks you to collect up the test papers at the end of an exam — “What?! I’m the best person to do this?! You’re resting the fate of the entire class in my 8-year-old hands?!… YAY!”
That adds on at least 10% to the 70% starting point. That person will probably now do the job 80% as well as you. Great going considering while that person is doing the job you’re off doing something very important and doing it well (yes, you do everything well, by the way).
2) Once you’ve delegated and somebody actually has ownership of a task, they actually put in the work — it means something to them, it is theirs. You always want something that is yours to succeed more than the next person does — you go the extra mile to do that thing very well.
Here’s an analogy: your son or daughter comes home from school from one afternoon and tells you they scored 40/100 on a piece of comprehension. They have until the next day to redo the test and score over 80 or they will be dropped down a set (wow, this school is brutal). So what do you do? You help them, you forget that glass of wine you had promised yourself and instead you do a piece of children’s homework. Why? Because that child is yours. The responsibility you feel for that child’s success means you work for them — you would do anything to have them succeed. When people feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for something they really do get to it.
That’s surely got to add about 5% onto your running total. The task is now probably going to be completed 85% as well as you would do it.
85% is pretty good wouldn’t you say? But don’t forget, people often surprise you. People have this unique ability to be actually unique. The best ideas and solutions are ones which are borne from somebody thinking just a little bit different to most — that someone might just be the person you’ve delegated that task to.
Add another 5% on for sheer unpredictably brilliant uniqueness and 90% is just about as good as you’re going to get let’s face it. If you can delegate the task to someone who will do the job 90% as well as you then I think you probably win. *
In short, effective delegation often doesn’t feel like being a very good leader. You will instinctively feel as if handing tasks out to your team is a loss of control, a loss of quality and a sabotaging of results. Of course, delegation isa loss of control — a willing one at that. However, maybe not having control over every single little task and process in your team is a good thing. You can then direct your real focus and control to the big picture stuff — the transformational, inspirational and directional things which mean that you are the leader. Plus, the people you delegate to might just surprise you with their results.
(*consider that maybe even you aren’t 100% capable of the task — imagine that! In this case delegation is all the more crucial)