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Delegating Employee Performance Collaboratively - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


Delegating Employee Performance Collaboratively 

Peter A. Marino, Ph. D. 

Editor's Note: This is the first of 13 Units on delagation, written by FURNITURE WORLD Magazine's contributing editor Peter A. Marino. It will be posted in weekly installments to the news section of the furninfo.com website. FURNITURE WORLD readers can request that the entire manuscript be sent to them at no charge via email, at editor@furninfo.com.


While the essence of managing lies in directing one’s employees, the evaluation of the manager lies in how well he or she delegates performance. That is true, regardless of the level of management. From top to bottom, managers are selected with one goal: to manage their employees’ performance in a way that is most conducive to attaining the organization’s goals. Absent that attainment, a manager’s efficiency and effectiveness will be greatly impeded.

Managers who habitually fail to delegate make a mockery of the authority that assigns employees. Such a failure unintentionally announces that the organization squandered whatever salaries the organization pays to those employees.

Reasons why managers hesitate to delegate performance

Why then do many managers fail to delegate performance? One reason lies in their fear that delegating performance is a way of abandoning their responsibility, that it signals their laziness. A second reason lies in their fear that delegating performance delays datelines, that delegating performance impedes efficiency and effectiveness. A third reason lies in their fear that delegating performance will diminish their managerial authority. A fourth reason lies in their unawareness that delegating performance greatly helps employee’s to develop leader skills. As a result, the organization is often obligated to limit its selection of future managers from a pool of outside candidates. A fifth reason lies in the fact that some managers are simply control freaks. Therefore, they find it irritating not do delegate performance.

Most of these fears can be overcome by arriving at a proper understanding of delegating performance. The following units can be of great help in overcoming those fears by pointing out the payoffs for managers who delegate performance. 

Unit One: Defining the Skill of Delegating

Anyone who is a member of Ducks Unlimited knows that geese far outnumber ducks, a fact commonly explained (1) by the significantly diminished number of stronger predators that once limited the number of geese: (2) by the goose’s powerful wings that help keep predators at bay, and (3) by the geese’s habit of mating for life, the goose and the gander sharing the raising of the goslings; (3) by the virtual disappearance of the geese’s stronger predators. Some might reasonably argue that geese are significantly more numerous than ducks because geese collaborate, ducks do not.

Any definition of delegating that eliminates the principle of collaboration between the manager and the employee is not worth the paper it is written on. Without collaboration between the manager and the employee, all attempts at delegating are fated to end by obtaining the mere compliance of the employee at best or by experiencing failure at worst. There are reasons for that. One, the manager whose style of delegating is directive instead of collaborative stands as much a chance of being effective as the salesperson who uses directive (closed) probes alone. Collaboration, not mandate, wins the employee’s buy-in. Moreover, to be effective, the delegating manager must invite the employee’s buy-in from the get-go. Effectiveness is the operational word here. Was it not the great Peter Drucker who quipped that “efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things? To do that, the manager requires three things:

(1) a positive attitude that assumes value in the employee;

(2) the cooperation of the employee;

(3) a confidence in the employee’s ability to complete the delegated task;

(4) a willingness to see persevere together with the employee.

The last point may be the most important, if the manager does not merely want to be like the drake that fertilizes the egg, but does not kelp raise the gosling from nest to finish.

Furthermore, the delegating manager must not abandon the employee during any of the stages of the delegation, for as we have already stated, the primary responsibility of every manager is to direct the employees in all their assigned tasks from start to finish. To abandon the delegated employee would constitute abandonment of the delegating manager’s responsibility and accountability. Therefore, the manager and the delegated employee must remain in continual communication until the task is completed. This communication is much like that of a mother or a father watching over his or her child riding a bicycle for the first time. To start with, the parent holds on to the child, but quickly releases his or her grip once the child can handle the situation alone. Just as the wise parent realizes that he or she cannot do the riding of the bicycle for the child, so too the wise manager realizes the same thing. But just as the first attempt at riding a bike does not rise to the level of difficulty of riding a bike in traffic, so too the employee’s first attempt at delegation does not rise to the level of delegating for the more difficult performances that must surely follow if the employee is to grow to the desired maturity. While neither party may be consciously thinking just then of the day when the employee may one day be managing his or her own employees, surely the wise manager knows that delegation may be the most practical way to prepare employees to become managers. The ancient Greeks held that all analogies limp.” The analogy of the bicycle limps too. Unlike, the child in the analogy, the delegated employee never ceases to need the manager’s direction.

Why collaboration?

We have already seen that collaborative delegation is much more likely to win the buy-in of the employee than directive delegation can. For, while an employee’s compliance can be mandated, an employee’s buy-in must be won.

Furthermore, commitment closely resembles respect. Both are more likely to follow an urgency felt from within than a pressure felt from without.

The benefits of a collaborative delegation     

1. A collaborative delegation helps all sides win: the manager, the employee, and others in the organization. Moreover, it does this in a way that lets the benefitted win at a considerably higher level than if the manager and the employee worked separately. In short, delegating promotes teamwork.

2. Delegating helps to make assignments less stressful, more enjoyable, and more successful.

3. Far from threatening the manager’s authority, delegating increases it. That is so because of the employee’s authority is temporary. Nor is the manager’s authority usurped; the manager can remove the employee’s authority, should that become necessary.

4. Collaborative delegation demonstrates the delegating manager’s humility.

5. Collaborative delegation also demonstrates the manager’s trust in his or her employees.

6. Collaborative delegation is an extension of the on-the-job training and education owed each employee.

7. From its outset, collaborative delegation, in contrast to directive delegation, helps to teach the delegated employee the art of planning within the wisdom contained in the dictum, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

8. While delegating is a more efficient way of completing a task, it is also a more effective way of completing a task. Delegating does things right and does the right things.

9. Finally, in as much as collaborative delegation is an education in learning how to practice interactive listening skills, it helps to promote a happy working place. “All human beings yearn to be listened to,” writes Michael Nichols in his book, The Lost Art of Listening. Employees and managers, being human beings, yearn to be listened to. 

Next Week:

Unit Two: The Magic of Collaboration
Unit Three: The Symbol of the Pyramid

For more information on Peter Marino and his plan to help furniture retailers go to see the following article posted to the furninfo.com website. Peter Marino veteran sales educator & author wants to give-back to the industry by helping furniture retailers educate their salespeople for a token fee of $5 per day (It's his retirement plan).