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Hello, everybody, welcome to a new series of blogs and videos called 'The Coaching Conversation' presented by me, Graham Whiley. I've been coaching business leaders for the last two decades and in this series, we're going to explore some of the things I've seen and learnt in that two decades, that will hopefully help you see how you can become more focused, more effective, and happier in your life.

So, it's now time to sit back, relax and enjoy The Coaching Conversation.



My subject for today is delegation, and how delegation is ultimately the key to personal success. I'm going to start by explaining how delegation fits in to being a manager, to being a leader, and then how it becomes critical to your personal development.

As a manager, you're entirely responsible for the organisation of resources to produce output - that's the definition of management. Those resources are people time, money, machinery, whatever. But that's your job - and the more effective you are organising those people, the more outputs you're going to produce. And therefore, delegation (within that context) is a critical piece of management, efficiency, management effectiveness.

Now, a lot of people talk about delegation. A lot of people express an understanding about being a good delegator or not being a good delegator. Well, they may or may not be good delegators. But I see very few courses or training on delegation that's as effective as it might be. And many of the people I coach put delegation and the ability to delegate as one of their major goals in a coaching programme.

So as a manager, whether you delegate a task or responsibility or not, it still remains your responsibility to get that thing done. Whether you're doing it personally or someone else is doing it. Therefore, the ability to delegate effectively is imperative. And the key rules about delegation are pretty straightforward, but they're not always adopted. So, for example, you must accept that it's delegation and not abdication - it is your job to get this thing done, even if someone else is doing the heavy lifting.

Therefore, you may need to check-in to make sure things are on target. Depending on how big the task, how long that's going to be, what the risk is of it going horribly wrong; will decide how frequently and at what interval level you should be finding out how things are going. The first thing with delegation of course is to make sure the person knows exactly what it is you want done; pretty much to what standard and to what timetable, or potentially - if it's relevant - to ‘how’. And if when you're delegating, you get them to play that back to you, it's the only way you can be certain that they really know what you want, when you want it and how you want it. That should then incite a conversation that would say, ‘I can't do that’, or ‘I’ve got a problem’ or ‘I need help.’ or 'Can I?’, ‘Can I have one of these?’, ‘Can I use this?’, so that the person becomes empowered, enabled to do precisely what you want. If you fail to communicate - if you fail to check-in - why would you be surprised if you got disappointed and let down, and the work wasn't done to the standard to the timetable that you'd set?

Another piece about delegation is making sure that the person you are asking to do something - and it could be a team, of course, not just a person - actually has the capability to do it. And capabilities are a number of things; it is time, it is skill set, and it might be other resources that they need to undertake the task. And it's your responsibility to make sure they're in place. Now, clearly, that can be a very short conversation or it could be a very long conversation depending on their readiness for the delegation.

Now, as a manager, as a leader, your ability to delegate becomes critical to your success. There's an old adage about 'delegate to make yourself redundant' and in principle, that's right. If you want to be progressing your career, if you want the next promotion, you've got to be available for it. If you are entirely indispensable in the role that you're in, you can never be promoted. So, if you are a poor delegator, you are by definition limiting your career prospects.

As I said, right at the beginning of this piece, it's key to your success. Its key to your success because by delegating you are learning to be a very effective manager. Can you imagine that the chief executive or something like British Petroleum, or Astra Zeneca is actually doing all the work that goes on in that organisation? Clearly not. It's cascaded down delegation, isn't it? Well, the further up the tree you go, the more delegated things have to get. If you think about most roles of managing directors, in organisations, they actually physically do very little, personally - I don't mean they don't work hard, but much of their time is about thinking, organising, communicating, coordinating others, the resources in their organisation, their direct reports. And so, delegation, and the ability to delegate is a critical management function, if you're going to get promoted.

There is another responsibility - and this is a piece that many people don't understand - How do you know how good the people are that work for you unless you have tested them? How do you know how committed how energetic, how hard working, how capable they are, until you've delegated to them virtually to an extreme position? You don’t. So until you do do that, you're never going to find out.

More importantly, neither are they, they won't know what they're capable of - and you are denying them the opportunity to develop by not giving them this delegation. At some point in your career, go way back when go as far as like, someone asked you to do something extra, someone gave the opportunity for you to do something new, something more, and you took it. You demonstrated to them that you were able and willing to do this, and you demonstrated yourself that you were able and willing to learn and develop. And that happened multiple times. And they enabled you to be singled out for promotion and for development. So, if you don't delegate to people beneath you, why do you think you are going to get the answer that you need - which is that they are taking more and more work off your table?

And how are you going to identify the talent - the future people to take over from you as you got the tree? So, delegation isn't about being lazy. It's about being smart. It's about being a manager. It's about managing - managing your time, managing what you do, managing what other people do, and being good at it.

It's also about trust, and it's also about risk management. When you delegate something to somebody, you're trusting them. I don't mean you're hoping 'I do hope it goes right’, I don't mean that. You are placing your trust in them that they will deliver for you, and therefore, they need to know that it's part of their accountability.

The other thing is risk. When you're delegating work (and if it's not done, or not done, right) your career, your job, your everything is at risk. And therefore, you must understand that abdication doesn't absolve you - you can't just say ‘I've delegated it, therefore I've abdicated everything to this person’; that doesn't make any sense. You're still responsible. And therefore, risk assessment of what you've delegated and who you delegate it to, is critical to your ability to manage delegation effectively.

So, if you're giving something very important to somebody who's very inexperienced, but you believe has got the raw talent and will benefit from the exposure, then you need to make sure you stay close to it. If you're giving something to someone who's done it a million times, is very senior, very seasoned, you probably don't need to. These are all part and parcel of how you use delegation effectively to become a very good manager, a very good delegator. And as I said at the beginning of the piece, how it becomes the ultimate key to your personal success.

As a coach, I've worked in many, many times, in enormous depth around delegation of senior executives. Many of them are very reluctant to delegate effectively - they feel they're being unfair, these people are already hard working, or they feel they can't trust them or they're worried about the risk of failure. Well, you've got to take the steps to mitigate those risks, you've got to take the steps to find out just exactly what they can and can't cope with. And if at the end of the day, you need to put more resources in, you need to do that, if you needed to put more training in you need to do that, but equally, you need to push people - you need to give them opportunity. And if you don't do that, you pay the price for them.

As a coach, I've seen bad delegation lead to all sorts of knock-on effects for people, their well-being, their stress levels, their ability to cope with their workload, their ability to actually gain the recognition and development that they so justly deserve. And then they become embittered or become unbalanced. And that's not good for anybody. So once again, it's about how important delegation is to your personal success, your personal development. It seems a small thing - but delegation is right up there with the key skills of life.

So, there you have it, the next edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at

If you want to reach out you can send me an email at you can book a free 30-minute coaching session at which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.


Graham Whiley


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