Building A Delegation Culture


Naphtali Hoff
   October 2019

In past posts I have made the argument for why leaders need to delegate, discussed how to use situational leadership to delegate more effectively, and shared tips on what and when to delegate. In this post, I will outline how to build delegation into your business culture.

One of the most important elements of a successful business or team is its culture. A culture is the environment that surrounds you all the time. It encompasses the shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature.

Cultures do not develop on their own. They result from conscious decision-making and behaviors which, when repeated over time, become expected norms for those operating within that space, whether it’s a community, a sports team, a place of worship or a place of work.

Corporate or organizational culture is rooted in the business entity’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to its work, customers, investors and the greater community. Of course, there are many different kinds of workplace cultures, including innovation, transparency and empowerment.

(This is not to say that these cultures are exclusive of one another. For example, a company can be innovative and also a fun, relaxed place to work. The prevailing culture is defined by the qualities that people within the organization identify as being most prevalent.)

This more extensive list places “strong leadership” at the top. This is valuable because it means that some cultures recognize the value of strong leadership and are prepared to take steps needed to empower existing and rising leaders to bring the company to the next level of greatness.

The above examples of culture focus on “macro,” or all-encompassing aspects of how businesses operate. “Micro” cultures (as defined here) can also exist. By “micro culture,” I mean a culture within the prevailing culture that speaks to the way specific matters are considered and addressed.

One such example is a “delegation culture.” Using the “strong leadership” example above, existing leaders may use delegation to not only clear their plates of the work that others should be doing (and allow them to do those things that they are uniquely positioned and qualified for,) but also to fill the leadership pipeline with future leaders. When leaders delegate, they train and empower others to take more ownership, strengthen their skillsets, and view organizational leadership as more horizontal than vertical.

The first way to create such a culture, of course, is to practice delegation early and often. Please click on the links at the top of this post to review what effective delegation looks like and how to implement it. Building it into your culture means that leaders need to do it and talk about how delegation is an organizational goal and something that is deliberately practiced.

To this end, give your direct reports permission to remind you when you haven’t delegated something that you should. Once they know what should and should not be delegated, they should be on the lookout for tasks that you are keeping for yourself unnecessarily and call you on it.

Make clear to others that if they see a project they want to take on, they should ask for it. Remind them of the benefits to them, you and the company when they do so, and reward them in word and deed for taking the initiative.

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog, and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new e-book, “An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing.”

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