The Language of Delegation

By Jeremy Blake on March 2, 2017

Before we consider business, let us consider school. Were you competing on your own when you were at school, is your son or daughter flying solo, or are they already delegating?

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, The Tipping Point, and most recently David and Goliath, says this:

“You walk into the class in second grade. You can’t read. What are you going to do to make it? You identify the smart kid. You make friends with him. You sit next to him. You grow a team around you. You delegate your work to others. You learn how to talk your way out of a tight spot.”

Growing the right team is infinitely easier than doing all of the work yourself.

When you speak to people at work, what they react to is the language you use and how you sound and look while you are speaking.

Consider the language of delegation below – where are you living?

    1. “Show me exactly what you are doing, let me check each and every stage and the actual words you are using. I’ll even give you the exact format to follow. Sit next to me and copy exactly what I am doing – this is how it needs to be.”
    2. “Hey, when will...and when are you...?”
    3. “Have you...?”
    4. “Are you...?”
    5. “How are you...?”
    6. “How would you like me to support you with this?”
    7. “How are you getting on, is there a particular section you want help with?”
    8. “Which....
    9.What next...?!”
    10.You own this now, there is no need to check or even run this by me. I have total faith in your ability to do this, run it, own it. Keep on with this excellent work. Well done on getting so good/accurate/relaxed/slick/neat/cool/creative/organised with this, and thank you very much.”

How do you sound when you delegate or don’t delegate? Are you even delegating?

Synonyms of delegate as a verb: Depute, commission, appoint, nominate, empower. All positive words. Delegation is a positive thing. It is not telling someone to do something that you want them to do just because you don’t want to do it.

Allow people to play to their strengths by asking someone who is good at that particular task to help and get involved.

What’s in it for them?
a) Money – usually not.
b) Public praise and recognition – if they thrive on that.
c) Personalised thanks and recognition. Definitely.
d) Food and drink? The way to many people’s hearts is via their stomach.
e) Peer acceptance.
f) Peer recognition.
g) Motivation, Motivation, Motivation.
h) Variety – is the spice…

So when you next walk into class don’t feel threatened by the smart kids, they may well look like kids to you, but they hold power and value to make you, the department, the company and themselves more successful through your trust and delegation.