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How To Delegate: One Key Step Towards Leadership

You've made an unusual discovery - there's not enough time left at the end of the day. The corollary, of course, is your list of important things to do never gets smaller. In any company, the CEO's to-do list has the potential to grow infinitely. What's a senior executive to do? This is not simply a personal problem. Your company's future depends on what you do next. As you drive your organization beyond its current plateau, you must change the way you relate to your work.

There are three stages to making the transition from chief-cook-and-bottle-washer (CC&BW) to CEO (source of the management and direction of the business). They are: * Understanding your highest value contribution to your company and focusing on that role. * Recognizing your position as a leader and owning the job. * Delegating everything else, and holding others accountable. Previous articles, Time Well Spent, deals with transition one; Visions of Leadership addresses transition two.

This article examines the problem of delegation - giving the work away. The Issue You have doubtlessly concluded your next level of company performance requires a managerial change. And hopefully, you have realized the changes necessary are with you. As CEO (or, on a divisional or departmental level - senior executive) your jobs include holding the vision; inspiring your senior management and your staff; fostering key relationships with customers, vendors, investors and the public, etc. You now need to let go of some cherished things like product design, hiring, perhaps day-to-day sales - many things you handled in the past, often out of necessity - and focus yourself on your role as CEO. What about all these things you used to do? Delegate them. Assign the job to someone else. This doesn't sound like a big deal, why write a whole article on it? Do you delegate? Of course you do. But do you delegate the important things? The things you "know" you could do better? The things you are "best" at? Probably not. The question is, should you? Your highest value contribution Think about your highest value contribution to your company.

Which of your activities generate the most revenue, profit, market share, etc.? Where do you get the most bang for the buck? Like most chief executives, your greatest leverage is in mobilizing the forces around you - your senior staff and your employees, plus key customers, prospects and vendors. Everything else becomes secondary to that in terms of impact. So the answer is yes. You should give away even the things you are "best" at. And then make sure they are done right. Make sure they are up to spec and delivered on time. The cost of holding on Now, the thorny part. Many executives refrain from delegating responsibilities they've labeled "critical". They fear the job won't be done correctly.

Or no one else can do it as quickly, and it won't get done on time. Or the right attention won't be paid. Or something. Or something else. Give it up! The growth of your organization will be stifled to the extent that you hold on to critical functions. Your company will suffer in the exact areas where you think you are the expert! Product design? You hold up the development of a key component, because you are the expert, yet you are away at a customer meeting. Staffing? Two engineers can't be hired because you haven't signed off and are out of town at a meeting with investment bankers. Sales? Negotiations on an important deal are held up because you are in Asia meeting with a vendor. You become the choke point on each of these vital functions. And you feel - of course - "I have to be involved.

" No you don't. To the exact degree you have not developed your staff to assume these functions, the growth of your company will be retarded. Aside from fear the job won't be done as well, there is another, more insidious reason senior executives (particularly entrepreneurs) do not delegate. If you aren't doing the "important" stuff, you become redundant. Dead weight. Overhead. If you have a great VP of Sales, or a Chief Technologist, what will you do? You feel this way because you haven't completed transitions one and two: you haven't taken the trouble of understanding how you personally create value in your company, and you haven't fully assumed the role of leader. Once you make these transitions, you won't have time for the rest. Delegation, not abdication.


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