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Jack Dunigan


The Attitudes of an Effective Delegator

Let’s start with gratitude

Published: Monday, December 7, 2015 - 14:59

Delegation. If you’ve been in leadership for very long, you’ve undoubtedly had a class or two on the subject, read a couple of books about it, and encountered effective delegators as well as ineffective ones.

I have as well. Your experience might be different, but most of the classes and books I read poorly served the subject of delegating because they focused on the act of delegating, the process of making assignments. We are therefore taught to find people we can give jobs to and then give them away.

But it doesn’t work quite that simply. Delegation is more than making assignments. We tend to look at the attributes of leadership in management terms: organizing, directing, overseeing, and the like. But effective leaders are also skilled in the more intangible attributes—including gratitude. Gratefulness has much to do with the perspective one holds of others and the way one handles them.

We handle things of value with greater care and attention than we do things of little value. We don’t throw jewels on the floor. We don’t handle breakable things roughly.

So it is with the attitude of gratefulness. I seldom use dictionary definitions, but this one is particularly relevant. Gratefulness is defined as “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.”

Note especially the “appreciative of benefits received.”

Yesterday a meme from the Zig Ziglar Co. appeared on my Facebook page. It said, “You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.”

True. We can and we can’t. Most leaders are multitalented individuals capable of great achievement. But that very attribute, the ability to do just about anything, often trips us up. We try to do too much by ourselves, overcommit to responsibilities, and get caught in the whirlwind of trying to keep up. That’s where delegation comes in.

Effective delegators are thankful for what others can do. They accept their personal limitations, which opens the door to finding others to do for them what they can’t do for or by themselves.

Effective delegators understand that others are more than people who do things. Those things those others do provide considerable benefit to everyone. The objectives of the company or organization are furthered. Progress is realized. Profit is gained.

Understand what others can’t do. We can’t do everything, and neither can anyone else. Everyone has limited time, talent, and energy. Effective delegators know that and work within the bounds of those limits. Motivators—and by that I mean leaders who are good at unleashing energy and enthusiasm in others—know that the most efficient and effective means of doing that is to focus in on what others are good at doing. We all have times when we have to do things we’d rather not, but over time we all tend to rise in fields of personal ability. It’s impossible to be grateful if you focus on another’s inabilities.

Avoid resentment. Too many leaders resent the time, effort, and money it takes to employ others. Failing to fully appreciate the benefits received by the labor of others, some leaders become irritated at what it takes to train employees or associates, at the amount of money they must pay them. Effective delegators don’t work for nothing, and they accept that others don’t, either. There’s an old proverb that says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.” Equating employees and associates to oxen may be a bit insensitive, but you get the idea: yes, it takes time; yes, it costs money, but the benefits received are worth the expense.

Don’t assume others know how you feel or what you think. Find a time in your schedule to express appreciation. Gratefulness does almost no good if it remains locked up. Why not pass on how you feel about those who help you?


About The Author

Jack Dunigan’s picture

Jack Dunigan

For more than four decades, Jack Dunigan has been leading, consulting, training, and writing. His experience is varied and comprehensive. His training and consulting clients are as varied as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Supreme Court to a top-rated campsite management company. But his advice is not merely academic. His blog, www.ThePracticalLeader.com, is focused on practical advice for leaders and managers of businesses, corporations, nonprofit agencies, families, organizations, departments, anywhere and anytime a person leads others. His latest book is Three Absolutely Necessary, Always Present Skills of an Effective, Successful Leader (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2012).