Reverse delegation

Had speaker Chalmers Brothers in recently to speak to my group on the art of communication in leadership. Do yourself a favor and Google "Chalmers Brothers and TED Talk"—it is well worth the 14 minute investment if you and/or your organization are (is) stuck, stalled or stagnant.

During our time together, Chalmers touched on the topic of "Reverse Delegation." I hadn't heard it referred to in that way before but I've certainly "lived it" my entire life.

You see, from time to time "I am guilty" of taking on more responsibilities directly than I should. It is my nature to be helpful. Upon closer examination, and looking in the mirror, who am I really helping here? In reality, reverse delegation stalls a leader's career trajectory and velocity, stunts the growth of the team, and by extension, slows down the scaling of the business.

As I like to tell my Vistage tribes, delegation will typically result in achieving 75-80% of the focused task or project. I encourage my leaders to focus of RESULTS not the tasks.

DO ALL THAT YOU CAN NOT TO LET THAT TASK OR GROUP OF TASKS COME BACK ON YOUR TO-DO LIST! I would encourage you to print this and stick it on your desk somewhere. The next time somebody pushes back on their responsibility (and accountability), respond with one of the below "trigger phrases."

12 sentences that prevent reverse delegation:

  1. “What’s the next step you can take?” Use “You,” not “we.”
  2. “I hear you explaining ways that I might move the ball forward. What could you do?”
  3. “I want this to be a team effort. What contribution can you make?”
  4. “I think you misunderstood my question. I wasn’t thinking about something I should do. I was wondering how you might run with it.”
  5. “Which of your strengths might apply to this opportunity?” Don’t respond directly to reverse delegation. Just point to their capabilities.
  6. “No. It’s better for your career for you to grab this opportunity.”
  7. “What makes you reluctant to run this ball down the field?”
  8. “How might I make it feel safe for you to risk taking on this responsibility?’
  9. “It doesn’t help your career when I do this. What’s a small step you can take today?”
  10. “What comes to mind when you think of taking this responsibility?”
  11. “Dividing this into pieces creates more complexity.” Use this when people try to give back a portion of the task.
  12. “I know it’s easier for me to do it. But it’s better for you to do it.” Use this when employees say, “It’s easier for you.”