These three different observations led me to believe that time management, trust and training were at the core of delegation. Delegation being the “transfer of responsibility for the performance of an activity from one person to another with the former retaining accountability of the outcome” as described in a medical manual.

Time management

is so important as the manager needs time to recruit properly, time to assess the task for delegation, time to set up the right person for the task, and time to monitor and give feedback to subordinates when they are on a delegated task.
The problem with delegation is that there is a classic “Catch 22” operating within it. You cannot delegate properly or successfully if you are time poor and yet time poor managers need the benefits of delegation the most. I would go on an say that managers of large teams need to be on top of time management or, they should have their responsibility downsized.

Training of staff

so there is a common understanding how the team writes reports, delivers presentations, research projects, undertakes quality assurance exercises to ensure that the final product is grammatically up to standard and the logic of the report is evident.
Some of the best training a subordinate can get is when the manager invests time in one-to-one training and allows staff to shadow them in areas, they need exposure to, just like the medical model. In this area we will also need to spend time to think about the rotation of staff so that they become more valuable to the organisation as they become cross trained.
The importance of training and delegation was shown to me recently with the birth of my nephew’s daughter. After the birth of one of the most beautiful babies you will ever see the mother had a massive haemorrhage. The midwife calmly explained “I am about to press this red button, please do not be alarmed, twelve medics will be here within 20 seconds and take over”. They came, and all knew their role. There was no discussing who should do what today, that had been worked out in relentless practice sessions. Just as a Formula one team, they were practiced perfect. They went to their area and began their task relaying information on. Without this level of training, in a crisis, the mother’s outcome would have been entirely different. This commitment to training is why hospitals function at a level that only other organizations can dream about.

Trusting staff

to deliver a product that is fit for purpose. In the first observation we had a lawyer who thought only his way was the right way. He would only trust himself and his work. The key to trust is acknowledge that there is more than one way for the task to be done. Unlike a maths exercise at school, there are many ways to write a report that will guide the decision makers effectively. In addition, even if the task is not performed up to the manager’s standard, fit for purpose is good enough and is a small price to pay for a great learning opportunity.
Training helps trust to grow. If the reports that arrive on Chris’s desk are “match ready”, error free and written in an agreed style, Chris will only need to add a brief paragraph stating his support for the conclusions and recommendations leaving the subordinates name on the front page of the report. It would also help Chris if he could say to the report writer, “Since it is your report, I want you to present it to the Board”, knowing that they will deliver well as they have attended the same presenter training course.
In order to trust staff, you need to know them inside-out having invested time in one-to-one sessions so that you know about their current workload, their abilities and their preparedness to take the required action.
Lord Horatio Nelson, in his pursuit of the French Mediterranean fleet, used to get the captains together, every lunchtime, to talk about a possible new scenario. “What if we meet the French at dusk and they are tied up in shallow water, do we attack or wait for daylight?” he would have asked. The captains would discuss and agree on a way forward so, over time, they had become a “band of brothers” clones of Nelson, so much so that during the battle of the Nile, Nelson did not give one command when they saw the French tied up in shallow water with their washing hanging over their gun ports.
By not trusting you will be willingly taking the monkey off your subordinates’ backs. In fact, you are encouraging your subordinates to pass the responsibility back to you. Oncken and Wass found that there has been a transfer of control, as the subordinates are now managing Chris by asking “How are you getting on Chris with my report?” In other words, by stepping in you are allowing your subordinates to step out.
In the end some managers will never be able to trust their team adequately enough. I suspect they are also time poor like Chris. These managers need to be moved to more specialist rolls or out of the organisation.
You have only really mastered these three Ts when your team can carry on without you, like Nelson’s captains could and did, during the Battle of Trafalgar.


This is part of a leadership toolkit that can be purchased from here