Category Archives: Delegation

Delegating Chris Ruisi

Effective Delegation Made Easy in 6 Simple Steps

Wikipedia tells us that, “Delegation is the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities. The person who delegated the work still remains accountable for the outcome of that work. Delegation is supposed to empower a subordinate to learn and to make decisions.”

Poor delegation causes frustration and confusion to all of the parties involved. Or, to say it another way: When done poorly, “It can be a living hell!” It also cheats your team out of opportunities to develop their skills, which ultimately hurts you, your team and your organization.

So how do you get started on the road to becoming an effective delegator?  First and foremost, you’re going to have to break out of your comfort zone and be willing to change. After that, following these simple 6 steps will get you going in the right direction: Continue reading

Create More Time for Growth – Developing Other “Go-To People”

In one of my prior Wake-Up Calls, I wrote about the importance of the leader not being the only “go-to person” in their organization. I went as far to point out that one of primary responsibilities of a leader is to develop other “go-to people” to allow them to free up their time so they can focus on those tasks that they do best.

Developing other “go-to people” is one of the key people strategic issues (selection, development, utilization, and measurement of your team) that the leader needs to focus on.

Often, when I write about these people strategy issues, the common question I hear is,  “How and where do I start?” Continue reading

You Have to Get the Cows Out of the Creek First

Follow this 3 step process to solve problems
“There is only one way to solve a problem – the right way” – Chris Ruisi, The Coach and Business Motivational Speaker of Choice

Get the cows out of the creek” is an expression I first learned about when I read an article about Meg Whitman, the then CEO of E-Bay (and now the new CEO of HP). She used the expression to describe her approach to problem solving. This approach is based on a 3 step process once you have learned that you have a problem that must be dealt with – i.e. the cows are stuck in the creek and cannot get out.

Step 1 – first, get the cows out of the creek

Step 2 – determine how the cows got stuck in the creek in the first place, and

Step 3 – fix it so that the cows don’t get stuck in the creek again

Let’s discuss each of these steps and let me give you my take on the meaning and application of each:

Step 1 – First, Get the Cows Out of the Creek

The first step addresses what must be done to start to move back to some form of normalcy in your operations. Clearly, while the problem persists there will be a continued disruption of operations and services. Money (the company’s) is either being lost or wasted. Future revenues may be at risk. An initial plan must be developed and implemented to stop its effect and start the movement towards a solution to the problem. Get your team involved. Get their input, they are on the front line and have an upfront perspective. Put an initial plan in place to start collecting the facts; duties and accountabilities need to be assigned with short deadlines set. This is not the time to “rush” into implementing “any” solution. You want to get the right information so that your eventual and permanent solution is right on target.

Step 2 – Determine How the Cows Got into the Creek in the First Place

The first step in correctly solving a problem is to understand fully its root cause. If you’ve handled it correctly, Step 1 should have given you most of that needed information. During Step 2, you will know in detail what the cause or causes were. Was it a procedural or business systems issue? Was there no system in place or was the one already in place inadequate? Or, was it an employee related issue related to poor training? Did the employee understand the task at hand? Did the manager use effective communication and delegation skills? Did the employee really understand what was supposed to have been done? Did someone try to cover up the mistake to avoid blame? Maybe, it was a customer related issue? Was the customer given the right information? Did the customer not follow our instructions? There are many other questions that can and should be asked during Step 2. The eventual goal is to end up with a firm grasp and understanding of what caused the problem.

Step 3 – Fix it so that the Cows Don’t Get Stuck in the Creek Again

With steps 1 and 2 successfully behind you, it’s now time to focus on moving to a permanent fix so that the problem will not be repeated. This fix may involve a new system or procedure; a change in operations or employee training; a restructuring of duties within a department or between departments. Maybe it might involve hiring new team members with different skill sets than those that already exist among your team members. What you’ve learned as a result of the problem must also be reflected into your fix or solution. We learn from our mistakes so long as we make the deliberate effort to apply that new knowledge to our business world. This will make you, your team and your overall company stronger and better able to respond to the many new problems you will face in the future. A question I am often asked is “what is the best way to learn from our past experiences?” My immediate response is to “watch the game films”. Watching the game films is a simple but highly effective process. Professional sports teams use this process daily and so can you. After a problem or “surprise event” ask yourself the following – “Based upon what we now know, if we had the chance to go through this experience again, what would we – – start doing; stop doing; do more of and do less of? I guarantee that if done correctly, this process will help you collect the right information to develop your permanent fix. Once you developed the fix, make certain that you include in your implementation of it comprehensive communications to your staff and, if applicable, to your customers so everyone understands what’s been done; why; how it effects them and how it will benefit them.

Bonus Step 4

Finally, before you close the book on this experience, be sure you give credit to your team for all of the “heavy lifting” they did to help you solve the problem. This is a critical last step that will pay you many dividends well into the future when you need that extra effort from your team again.

Effective problem solving skills, especially in today’s economic climate, are critical for success. When delivering a strategic keynote address on leadership, as a professional business motivational speaker, I stress this point as hard as I can to my audience. If you would like to learn more about how you can enhance your problem solving skills, contact me today

It’s Not My Fault! Really? Then Stop Making Excuses

Learn the top 5 ways to stop making excuses

Albert Ellis, was an American psychologists, who in 1955 developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) once said, “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny”.

Each of us, at one time or another, have made an excuse about a deadline we missed; work not done; or some other task that fell short of what we promised we would do. Some of us are so good at making excuses that it happens almost automatically or unconsciously as we attempt to avoid any responsibility for why something did not go well.

Maybe we do it because we don’t want to get in trouble or we don’t want to look bad in front of our co-workers; friends; family; boss or pet. We just don’t want anyone to think less about us. I guess it’s a part (a misguided part) of our emotional and psychological approach to how we try to defend or protect ourselves. We even go as far as to justify our excuse when we say –”But I have a good excuse”. From my perspective, there is no such thing as a good excuse. All excuses are bad. What an excuse means is that for whatever reason, you have made the decision to not step up and take ownership or responsibility for your actions or lack thereof. You are in essence saying – “It isn’t my fault, don’t hold me accountable“. Well, that’s just old fashioned “you know what”.

It’s amazing and scary just how much effort people put into coming up with what they think is a “good excuse”. If they directed half of that effort into doing what they did not, there would be no cause for alarm. One of the reasons, I think, people make an excuse is that they fear making a mistake. I read once that the greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearful that you will make one. An excuse is their misguided attempt to get others to sympathize with them and “cut them a break”. They are trying to portray themselves as the victim and not the cause.

But what really happens when you get into the habit of making excuses?

  1. First, the very people who you are trying to gain sympathy and understanding from begin to see you as someone who just cannot be depended upon. They know that you always have a reason (oops! I meant to say excuse) why something didn’t get done.
  2. Next, you are seen as being lazy and defensive.
  3. Your constant self victimization becomes old and eventually others will not want to work with you or even be around you. In fact, the only people you will attract are other self-made victims, like you.
  4. You become so good at making excuses, that your reality becomes distorted and you start to immediately identify why “you can’t” do something even before you fully understand what needs to be done. You run the risk of diminishing your self-respect.
  5. Finally, your life becomes an ever decreasing circle of lost personal and professional growth and opportunities. In essence, you self-sabotage yourself and never maximize your full capabilities.

So, how do you become more resilient and a “no excuse” player? Here are the top 5 ways you can eliminate the temptation of making excuses:

  1. Your level of perseverance needs to be such that you will do what you need to do to see something through to a successful end; and that you have faith and confidence in your abilities to essentially “learn on the job”.
  2. You must develop a “no fear” attitude towards failure. You must demonstrate that you are willing to try something and take a reasonable risk.
  3. You must be 100% committed to learn from your mistakes to help you be better the next time.
  4. When appropriate, you must be willing and eager to seek the help of experts as you work through a challenge. With this additional knowledge, you might avoid failure or a mistake, thereby eliminating the temptation to come up with an excuse.
  5. Finally, you must have in place an ongoing program of self development. No matter how good you may think your skills are, you can always get better. Thinking you know it all is arrogant and misleading to you and others. The better or more proficient you become, they less likely you will be put in the position to explain (make excuses for) your actions or non-actions.

Dr. Stephen Covey, an internationally recognized leadership authority and author has been quoted as saying “When you make a mistake, admit it; correct it and learn from it immediately”. Pretty good advice, right?

There is another aspect of excuse making that needs to be addressed also. Specifically, if you are in a leadership role, how do you handle a team member who is really good at making excuses? When I am asked to give a leadership keynote presentation as a motivational business speaker, I always stress how a leader can only be as good as his team and the team will only be as good as the leader. As a leader, to keep making progress, one of the things you need to focus on is building a “no excuse” culture within your team; easier said than done. If you have team members who are good at coming up with reasons why bad things are never their fault your ability to delegate and boost your team’s performance will be severely hampered. These folks will test every aspect of your leadership style. Shortly, I will be releasing another blog post on effective leadership techniques to handle the “excuse maker”. For now however, remember the importance of being consistent in the expectations you set for team members and how you hold them accountable. Excuse makers don’t like expectations and they really don’t like accountability – for anything! As I said, more to come but for now if you want to get a quick review on my prior posts on being a leader – then click leadership.

The next time you are faced with making the choice of offering an excuse or stepping up and taking responsibility and ownership for your actions, take a “time out” before you act. Consider for a minute if you are willing to put your courage, confidence, self respect and reputation at risk. Remember that others will judge you based on your actions. Do you want to be seen as the person who has the courage to take responsibility for their actions or the person who “always has an excuse”? Choose wisely.

Your Business Is You – Is that a Good or Bad Thing?

Let’s be clear; effective leaders know that working “On” Your Business really means working on “You”

We have all heard about the importance of differentiating between working “on” your business versus working “in” your business. The concept is often discussed when I am presenting to business leaders as a business motivational speaker. Heck, I use this statement in much of my work as a business coach with my clients. However, I am quick to point out that when an owner or leader gets better, their business automatically follows and also improves. So, you are your business and your business is you. But, is that always a good thing? Let’s look at some indicators that will help you answer the question for you and your business. Okay, you know the drill – answer the question based on reality, not what you might “hope” it would be.

  1. Do you find that during any particular week you waste time and money and still miss opportunities?
  2. Do you find yourself involved in a fair amount of “fire-fighting” and moving from crisis to crisis?
  3. Are you very busy, running from task to task and meeting to meeting but still see no measurable progress being made?
  4. Are you pulled in multiple directions at the same time with little or no time for you?
  5. Do your employees require constant follow-up; do what they want, when they want regardless of what you want them to do?
  6. Do you, today, still have the same passion about what you do as when you first started?

Click here to get your business back on track with tips from executive coach, Chris RuisiIf you answered “yes” to at least two of these questions, then your professional life (and maybe even your personal life) can best be described in the following way – “the bad news is you’re lost but the worse news is you’re making great time”. If you have a team depending on you, this type of situation will dampen any attempts to either properly delegate to them; set performance expectations or boost the team’s performance.

You are at a critical crossroads and you can’t stand there too long trying to determine which way to go. The choices are clear – accept the status quo, curl up into a complacent ball and accept the fact that you will forever be a victim of the circumstances you created. That’s right! You created! Often when one accepts this type of status quo, they are laying the groundwork for a future crisis. I remember discussing this point in a Managing Crisis presentation I gave to a medical management group when they hired me as a professional keynote speaker for their conference.

The other choice you can make, at the crossroads I mentioned, is to change the status quo and create a “new” reality and start down that road of becoming a “master” of the circumstances (and opportunities) that you create. That’s right you create!

You’re the only one who can make this decision. To help you, let’s get some brilliant advice from the wisest man I know – Yogi Berra. One of Yogi’s most famous statements is “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”. Here’s what Yogi meant by this brilliant tidbit of advice. According to Yogi (taken from his book with the same title) ”people are always afraid of making the wrong choice. But no matter what decision you make…you shouldn’t look back. Trust your instincts”. Yogi went on to say, “Make a firm decision. Make sure it feels right…don’t second guess yourself. But on big life decisions, get advice if you can”.

Bottom line; accept responsibility for your career (and life). If you don’t like where you are, then do something about it, now. Determine where you want to be; create your plan and take action and implement it, one step at a time. Click here to find the solutions for the questions I asked you at the very beginning of this post. Then, take the next step and contact me.

5 Great Ways to Run You and Your Business into the Ground

Leadership – Being a Master of Your Circumstances as Opposed to a Victim of Them

Here are five of the top ways business owners and even business leaders and executives can run themselves and their businesses into the ground. And, if they are guilty of any of these five habits, more than likely they will be unable to retain good employees they have working for them – an accelerant for burning the business to the ground.


As you read this list, be honest with yourself. If you are guilty of having any or all of these five traits, then stop what you are doing as soon as you can! You are making yourself a victim of your circumstances as opposed to being the master of them.

Here we go:

Don’t plan each day. – This is the #1 cause of wasted time, money and energy. Now why should you plan each day? It’s more fun to live on the edge and operate in a defensive and reactive mode. You know who you are. You’ve convinced yourself that you can handle any crisis that comes your way. Let me let you in on a little secret – your lack of planning makes you the likely cause of the crisis! Want to know what you should do? You need to develop your business planning skills and learn to set and work with business goals. Watch my rant entitled “Show me a man (or a woman) who excels at putting out fires…” I’m talking about you in this rant. Having a daily plan, or even one for the week, gives you an edge. It gives you more control of your destiny. And, if a distraction pops up, your plan gives you the new starting point after you have eliminated the distraction. Plus developing and following a plan is a key leadership trait.

Don’t train anyone else to do the tasks that you should NOT be performing. – Here’s what you’re thinking – “Come on Chris, get real! I am great at announcing “it will be easier if I do it myself”. Well, that may be the only thing you are good at. You’re not good at planning, delegation or developing your employees. Want to know what you should do? For starters, let me suggest that every time you feel the need to “do it yourself”, ask yourself if that would be the best use of your time? Ask also what would be a better use of this time (Hint – grow your business; look for new customers, etc)? If you have the time, I would urge you to read “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey” by Ken Blanchard. There is a very important message in this book for you. Stop doing others peoples work… for them, especially if you are also paying them.

Don’t have any clue as to the description of your ideal client”. – Admit it; you really enjoy working with those customers who suck every bit of life and energy out of you. Plus, they probably want a discount on every sale and (here’s the best) they pay you very very slowly. At night, you pray that the earth would open up and swallow them. If you don’t have a description of your ideal client, how will you know where to look for them? If you don’t know where to find them, then you are probably wasting valuable marketing dollars and time. Want to know what you should do? Ideal clients will inspire you, make you feel confident, pay you what you’re worth, praise you, and refer other clients to you without being asked. One way of defining your ideal client is to look at past and present clients. Which of these clients did you enjoy working with the most? Pull those client files and list their common characteristics. Stop being a client victim!

Don’t deal with your poor performing employees. – It’s easier to ignore them and ask your better employees to pick up the slack. Forget about the feelings of the better employees who are carrying their own weight plus the weight of the dead beat! Some of you, to avoid dealing with them, will give them a lousy raise so they will quit (I never understand why you give them a raise anyway). But, you do and they don’t quit do they? Why should they? They are doing the least amount of work and still getting paid! Want to know what you should do? Start learning the meaning of – performance appraisal tools; setting performance expectations; holding people accountable to meet your expectations and, following through with your team on the consequences of good performance as well less than acceptable performance

Don’t tackle the tasks you must do on a timely basis. – Be bold. Let the work pile up. It’s more of a challenge to be a “super-procrastinator”. Why? So you can complain about how busy you are and have all these things to do. This approach is especially damaging when you put off working on big projects that require several steps to complete. Your response –

“Hi honey, have dinner with the kids and kiss them goodnight for me. Don’t wait up for me either. Have to burn the midnight oil tonight to get a big project done that is due tomorrow. Boy, I just don’t know where the time goes. I’ll probably have a burger at my desk and wash it down with some Red Bull”.

Want to know what you should do? Learn to break these big projects into smaller pieces. Tackle each smaller piece one at a time. Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy is an excellent source on how to stop procrastinating. Go buy it – Now. You will be happy that you did. Next develop and strengthen your self discipline skills. The best definition of self discipline that I have seen goes as follows – “do what you are supposed to do; when you are supposed to do it, even though you don’t feel like doing it.

All of these examples, if you do nothing about them, will run you and your business into the ground – literally. You can always fix a business or start a new one. There is only one of you. Want to know what you should do? Stop the madness. You can if you want to. The next step is to contact me so that we can transform the chaos in your business and your life into something that has value and you enjoy (yup have fun) making it grow.

Put Yourself in “Time Out”!

The keyword here is “self-discipline”

“That’s it! You need a Time Out!” This is a common expression that a parent will use when their child has either done something bad or is on the verge of doing something bad. I know…I have heard my son and daughter-in-law use it with our 3 year old grandson. I read on a parent help site the following – “Time out is a very effective discipline technique.” The key word here is discipline or as you will read later on “self-discipline”.

“Time Out” is also an action or tool that sports teams use to either take a breather or discuss where they are at a particular moment in a game; to discuss a possible change in strategy and / or tactics or, slow down the surge or momentum of their opponent. Depending upon the sport, each team has a set amount of time outs they can use during the course of a game. When used correctly and at the right time, it is not unusual to see a shift in the momentum of the game in favor of the team who called the “time out”. (The same holds true with 3 year olds).


So, how does all of this matter to an executive or business owner? It’s simple really.

A day doesn’t go by that a business leader doesn’t find themselves in a “crunch”, crisis, off track or overwhelmed. It comes with the territory (and some believe – like me – that these types of situation test the depth of their leadership and problem solving skills). Some respond by plodding along at the same thing; some even plod along at the same thing but…at a faster pace and others just get stalled, get distracted and create another crisis somewhere else. Eventually, they all learn that their decision as to how to handle the issue did not work and they still have the problem (usually it has gotten worse and out of control).

What would have been a better choice? Call a “Time Out”! Take the time to evaluate the issue; see if you are still on track or need to make an adjustment to your game plan. Take 10 minutes of uninterrupted time (this is really important so that you be 100% focused on the issue at hand) and plan out your next step, in a logical way based upon the facts at hand. This is what winning teams do and the good news is that you have no limit on the number of times you can call a “time out”. However, to call and use a time out in an effective way, you must enhance your self-discipline skills. It is your self-discipline skills that will alert you when you must take action. It is your self-discipline skills that also allow you to maximize your talents. I read once that talent without self-discipline is like watching an octopus on roller skates – a lot of motion but very little consistent and effective forward progress.

A word of caution – if you find yourself constantly calling time outs, then you have a bigger and more serious challenge – you are probably lacking a vision; goals and any form of a meaningful time management (you management) and planning skills. If that’s the case, be honest with yourself and address it as soon as possible – your business and your health hang in the balance. If you put it off it will prove fatal.

What should you do now? Well to get started, try this – during the course of the day, call a time out every two hours and take those uninterrupted 10 minutes to assess what you are doing; to confirm they are the right things; to adjust if needed and to confirm that you are doing those things that will get you closer to achieving your goals. Make your last time out of each day the time you assess how you did and to plan for the coming tomorrow. If you can build this habit over the next 30 days, on a consistent, persistent and systematic basis, you will eventually no longer need to schedule your time outs (although it’s probably a good thing to keep on doing, maybe not as frequently as every two hours). But, you will know when to call them going forward, at the right time, because you will have learned the skill and how to properly execute it.

If you follow the process I have outlined, you will find that the investment that you make in putting yourself into “time out” will be more than offset by increases in your own personal productivity and how you lead your business. Think about it, you have nothing to lose. You probably waste 10 minutes every two hours anyway. Why not recapture that time and turn it into an opportunity. It works in sports and can work for you – if only you want it to and you commit to developing the “time out” habit.

Feel silly trying this? What’s silly about doing things that will lead to more success? Need help to get started? That’s an easy one to solve. Call me and I’ll buy you the timer?

Do You Have What It Takes To Be “The Boss”?

He was called “The Boss”. He was born to lead and achieve. He was driven to succeed. People only had two reactions to him – they either liked him or disliked him. There was no middle ground. Say what you want, even if you disliked him and disagreed with his approach, one thing was always perfectly clear – you always knew where he stood on an issue (by the way, in my mind this is key for any effective leader). He was George Steinbrenner.

To describe his management style as unique and colorful, would be an understatement. His style worked for him. It may not work for you. Regardless, every “Boss” has a unique style – some work and some don’t. However, Steinbrenner did get results (and made many players very wealthy in the process) by winning 11 penants and 7 championships after he bought the team in 1973. At the end of the day, business results do matter.


Not everyone wants to be a boss or should be a boss. There is no shame in being the best you can be at what you feel you do best. However, if you do aspire to be a business leader then, the title alone will not make it happen nor will waiting for the leadership genie to appear and sprinkle you with “leadership dust”. So, if you have decided to be a boss (leader) what are you doing to find your style, develop it and make it work for you and your team?

Steve Tobak in his July 14, 2010 blog post described the key aspects of Steinbrenner’s mangement style. I have summarized some of them as follows:

1.He made sure his players knew who was The Boss.

2.He was demanding. He said that he learned from his father that “I can’t” was never an acceptable answer.

3.He hired the best, and kept them.

4.Failure was never an option. He paid the best and expected his team to win.

5.He had a singlular focus – win – he once said “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.”

6.He instilled that winning focus within his organization.

Let’s review some of these in a bit more detail and draw some comparisons to you, your business and your professional growth.

First, if you don’t have a vision for your company; your team, etc – you are not a leader and clearly will never be “The Boss” (Duh? Think about it… if you have no vision of where you want to go how do people know when and where to follow you?). Don’t think for a second that Steinbrenner built his shipping business or the Yankees by “making it up as he went”. He had a plan; a vision that he constantly adjusted as he collected more knowledge and experience. He learned from the good times as well as the bad times – that’s what leaders do – they learn and apply that knowledge to their present situation to create the future they want and boost their companies performance.

Second, with a vision, a leader is able (he or she better if they expect to keep their leaders job!) to set expectations and standards for the team. Steinbrenner set high standards for his team and held them accountable to meet these expectations. On this point alone, he was the most consistent (for you leader want-a-be’s out there, remember that consistency builds trust and trust is what leaders use with their followers). Far too often, business leaders (including business owners) are way too tolerant in accepting mediocre levels of performance. Some of you don’t even have expectations and then you get angry when your team doesn’t perform up to your “non-stated” standards – get your head out of that dark spot! If you don’t have standards; then you have nothing to communicate and guess what – your team has no guidance and your business flounders. It’s your fault!

Throughout my career, I was always in a leadership position. The following info was developed from my succcesses and, my mistakes (in all honesty, more was learned from the mistakes and boy, did I make mistakes! Some really big ones…). Hopefully, you might find my experiences helpful to you as you think about boosting your team’s performance through standards and expectations:

1. set some level of minimum performance below which you are not willing to accept

2. spend the time training your team so they understand what needs to be done and the standards that determine satisfactory performance

3. make sure that your team understands the consequences of performance that either meet or exceed your standards as well as when the standards are not met

4. act quickly to recognize good performance as well as performance that does not meet the standards

5. every chance you get reinforce the right actions on the part of your team – when they get that type of feedback, they will repeat their actions and encourage others to do the same.

Third, before you can set expectations for your team, you have to have a team – made up with the right people. Many do not have a clear cut description of who they want to hire; the skills they need to have and how they should perform. I learned a long time ago that we “tend to hire” our own problems. Some of you even go into an interview without any idea of the questions you need to ask or how to evaluate the responses you get to them from the candidate – yet, if they “look good” or have a neat resume you hire them. Then, and here’s the best part, 90 or so days after they are on your team, they are “not the same person” or they “don’t seem to get it”. Who hired them? You did and you made a costly mistake. How costly? Well, if you make a mistake and hire the wrong person in a $50,000 mid-level professional position, the cost to your company – after 90 to 120 days – would be approximately $20,000. Remember to have an effective team, you need to have the right people; with the right skills; in the right roles at the right time. You have to set this standard and demand accountability to it. No exceptions.

Steinbrenner once said “if you can’t make tough decisions, then you can’t be the boss”. Leaders (Bosses) know they have to make tough decisions. In most cases, they thrive on making tough decisions. These decisions are often made quickly and based on less than perfect data. They know that hesitation can be deadly. I wrote about this in a prior post (actually one of my Coach’s Rants) entitled “How do you cut the tail off of a dog”? It might be a good time to go back and re-read it because how you make decisions is critical to the progress you make going forward.

Leaders have a vision or a plan. They are able to communicate that plan to their team and show them where each of them fit in. A leader sets the standard and holds the team accountable to meet those standards. A leader never offers or accepts excuses. They look for solutions and a way around problems. They do not shrink in the face of having to make a tough decision. When a leader does all of these things consistently and persistently then and only then can they be called “The Boss.”

Lessons In Leadership: Do You Delegate (Or, Do You Collect Other People’s Problems)?

Wikipedia tells us that delegation is the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities. However the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work. Delegation is supposed to empower a subordinate to make decisions, i.e. it is a shift of decision-making authority from one organizational level to a lower one. Sounds good but at this point you “control freaks” are ready to slit my wrists for sharing this stuff! But, in the face of this danger, I’ve decided to keep going.

Wikipedia goes on to state that delegation, if properly done, is not abdication (ok, control freaks now say with passion”yeah right!”). The opposite of effective delegation is micromanagement, where a manager provides too much input, direction, and review of delegated work (control freaks are now thinking – “Is there any other way?”). In general, delegation is good and can save money and time, help in building skills, and motivate people. Poor delegation, on the other hand, might cause frustration, and confusion to all of the involved parties. Or, to say it another way – when done poorly, “It can be a living hell”!


In his book The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey Ken Blanchard talks about the Four Rules Of Monkey Management:

1. Describe the monkey: The dialogue must not end until the appropriate “next moves” have been identified
2. Assign the monkey: All monkeys shall be owned and handled at the lowest organizational level consistent with their welfare
3. Insure the monkey: Every monkey leaving your presence on the back of one of your people must be covered by one of two insurance policies:
a. Recommend, then act
b. Act, then advise
4. Check on the Monkey: proper follow-up means healthier monkeys. Every monkey should have a checkup appointment.

This is probably the best book on delegation that I have found and at some point in my executive/business coaching client work, I give it to my clients to read. In every case, the lessons in the book “hit home” with each client. The concept of “insuring the monkey” takes away all of the excuses you “control freaks” use as to why you cannot (or is it will not) let go.

One of the dark sides of delegation I had to deal with in my career is called “upward delegation”. The book describes it when a subordinate comes to you and utters these bone chilling words – “we have a problem” and your response is “I’ll handle it”. Sometimes you take it on because “it’s easier if I do it myself” or “I don’t have the time to show you so I’ll do it this time”. Regardless of what excuse you use (and make no mistake, they are excuses), the monkey is on your back and you are now a victim, that’s right a victim of “upward delegation”.

Over time I learned to fight and eliminate “upward delegation” by qualifying my “open door policy” by adding two mandatory requirements when someone came to tell me ” I need your help” or that all-time favorite “we have a problem”. They were –

first, tell me what you tried and why it did not work;

or second, tell me what you are thinking of trying that you want to brainstorm with me before you take action.

When you, as the leader, lay out performance expectations and stick to them, your team starts to do their homework and are better able to identify, understand and solve the challenges they confront. In essence, they become active participants in finding solutions – without having to be told. This simple approach encouraged my team to think about solutions before they raised the “red flag” and not to be fearful of offering up suggestions. When your team starts to think, speak and act in this way, they begin to grow and the growth of your business follows. In addition, you have more time to focus on the things you as the leader need to focus on – the strategic issues that will move your business (and you) forward.

So how do you get started? First and foremost, you’re going to have to break out of your comfort zone. If you are a so-called “control freak” you’re going to have to get comfortable feeling or being uncomfortable. Or as I have often said, “you need to Be Fearless; Step up and Play Big.” After that, following these simple steps will get you going in the right direction:

  1. Define the task – describe clealy what the output needs to be
  2. Delegate to a person with demonstrated competence
  3. Explain the task clearly, in writing if necessary
  4. Invite/encourage questions and feedback
  5. Give a schedule and deadline for completion
  6. Periodically inspect what you expect

A warning – the first time you follow this approach, may not go as smoothly as you might hope. That’s ok. Learn from the bumps in the road and apply that knowledge to the next time. Guess what? The next time may not go smoothly either. Just don’t quit on this or yourself. Keep working at it. Delegation, done the right way (and you can do it the right way), is probably one of the most effective tools a leader has in his leaders toolkit. So ask yourself, do you really delegate or do you just collect (and get swamped) other people’s problems? If the answer is you are a “collector” then stop right now and change course. Your career, buisness and quality of life depend on it.