Why the Best Bosses Delegate

October 9, 2017
By Kim Garcia, PSA Director of Marketing

My entire career has been spent in small marketing departments (the biggest one ever being a whopping five people). I am used to working in settings where I wear a lot of hats, push up my sleeves and get to work bringing lots of marketing programs to life. While this has afforded me great opportunities to develop many different skills in the marketing discipline, there is one area that it has not prepared me for as I have evolved in my career: delegation.

Delegating can be hard. But what I have realized over the last few years at PSA in particular is that carving out time to focus on the big picture of the business is essential to the continued upward trajectory of the company. A phrase often used is that we need time to “work ON the business, not just IN it.” So true, and yet so difficult to put into action when you are used to being on small teams. In planning this post, I have realized a few truths about delegation that I intend to lean on as I improve this management area over the next year.

Delegating isn’t just offloading the tasks you don’t want to do to someone else, it’s about prioritizing your own workload so you can focus on the projects you should be doing
Trust and Get Out of the Way

Delegation is rooted in trust. When you delegate to someone, you are entrusting that project to their care. You hand it over with confidence that they will dedicate the time and attention needed to complete the project adequately. As a director, it’s my job to outline what the end result should be and then get out of the way and let the team I trust take the ball and run.

“There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Cat”

Some managers ascribe to the “70 percent rule,” which basically says that if a manager thinks someone could do the job at least 70 percent as well as they could, then they should delegate the task to that person. While this rule is intended to rid managers of the quest for perfection, it assumes that the person being delegated to will approach the project with the exact same strategies as the manager but just not do as good of job of it. The outcome could be 70 percent as good as it could have been had the manager just done it themselves.

I am not a huge fan of the 70 percent rule because it ignores the fact that people approach projects differently and that doesn’t mean they will do a worse job than I would. I know that my team taps into their own resources and past experiences to get projects done and my way isn’t necessarily the best way. I believe in building well-rounded teams and by doing so have a team of people who all approach projects differently but who also share the commitment to delivering quality results which is what matters most in the end.

Delegate More Than Tasks

The mistake that many managers make when delegating is just doling out tasks instead of giving others responsibility and ownership of a project. Delegating isn’t just offloading the tasks you don’t want to do to someone else, it’s about prioritizing your own workload so you can focus on the projects you should be doing. The best managers will take a look at the individual strengths of their team members and assign projects to people based on what would be a good fit for their skills. By doing so, you will be able to hand off entire projects or programs for them to manage and allow them to grow their own skills and feel a sense of pride and ownership in the process.

I used to think that delegation was some sign of weakness or that my team would look down on me for asking them to do things. But by not delegating, I not only take away growth opportunities from the great people I have hired, but I am also too bogged down to do the work that I need to do to ensure the continued success of the company. I wouldn’t have the job I do today had my bosses in the past not delegated to me – it’s time to get better at paying that forward.