The Truth about Delegation (Part 1 of 2)

Doug Bellamy / August 2017

Some people think delegation is getting everyone else to do everything. Meanwhile, others feel they must do everything themselves in order to get it done right. Which is it?
Neither is true. Nevertheless, that is the way it seems to all too many. To one or the other, management or subordinates, that is the definition of delegation or the lack thereof. Who would think such a thing? Both positions are as far from the truth as the East is from the West. Nevertheless, such opinions are out there, everywhere.
From the workforce’s perspective, it may seem like the ruling class has an aversion to work in general. Consequently, they (upper management) are a do-nothing class of ultra-elite. They are overpaid, underworked individuals. Any remuneration/compensation to upper management is considered nothing more or less than awards to the non-participants.
As a sanity check, let me give you my version of the golden rule of delegation: “Avoid doing anything anyone else in your organization can do (push that in their direction and hold them accountable) as long as there is anything that you alone can do that needs to be done.” Read that again, and let it sink in. Did you? Did you really read that again? If so, Wikipedia can also help us here: “Delegation is the assignment of any responsibility or authority to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities, such as starting on proper tires during a wet race. It is one of the core concepts of management leadership. However, the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work. Delegation empowers a subordinate to make decisions, i.e., it is a shifting of decision-making authority from one organizational level to a lower one. Delegation, if properly done, is not abdication. The opposite of effective delegation is micromanagement, where a manager provides too much input, direction and review of delegated work. In general, delegation is good and can save money and time, help in building skills, and motivate people. On the other hand, poor delegation might cause frustration and confusion to all the involved parties. Some agents, however, do not favor a delegation and consider the power of making a decision rather burdensome.”
Let me say this about that. Over the years I’ve been accused of being everything from a pencil-pusher to a do-nothing by those who have no idea of what my workday looks like. These captives of their own ignorance need nothing more than to spend a day with me to get their thinking straight. There are those on the outside looking in, both management and employees, who beg for an answer. What is it I actually do? It is said in jest, mostly. They throw it in here and there and snicker. However, anytime comments and questions like that are asked or posed, rest assured there is an element of sincerity and cynicism present. It is mostly spawned in ignorance and should be ignored. Any effort to defend oneself just makes matters worse. My advice to such recipients: “Just do your job and let them figure out the rest.”
If you are doing your job, those who really know you well probably won’t jump to such conclusions. They should have an element of respect for you and your role and probably realize that it’s a job they wouldn’t want nor be able to do. But don’t be surprised if that kind of misinformation circulates. It probably will happen.
There aren’t many people who can handle the top spot in management. All of the problems that are unsolvable by others migrate to the individual at the top, and it isn’t easy handling all of the top issues while simultaneously guiding the organization toward problem prevention and smooth operations.
Among other things, that task is all about thinking about and preventing things that others inadvertently overlook. Problem prevention is a legitimate responsibility of management, especially upper management, since they are supposed to be keeping an eye on everything.

Furthermore, it involves a very simple yet profound rule and teaching middle management to do the same. “Avoid doing anything that others can do while there is anything that you and you alone can do, that needs done.” Yes, I know I’m bringing this up again. Have you memorized it yet? Probably not, so don’t be surprised if I bring it up again.

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is known for his original thought, innovative approach and the personal development of unique processes, systems and procedures. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at