How Being Less Responsible Can Grow Responsibility in Others

Could being overly responsible increase your team’s irresponsibility?

Because leaders are typically very responsible, they tend to act responsibly. When a problem needs to be solved, a decision needs to be made, or a system needs to be implemented, the responsible leader jumps right in. It’s just natural.

But consider this: If you always step in to take care of problems, your team will let you.

In this NEW POST, I give you 4 strategies to give away responsibility to reduce your team’s irresponsibility.



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An Easy Leadership Development Strategy You Can Put In Place Today!

This short post is for any leader working to develop the leaders around them…

We all know leadership development is important. We equally know leadership development often feels like an over-complicated strategy requiring processes, plans, and systems.

Perhaps that is needed. Or maybe there is something we can all do now to begin helping the leaders around us grow.

Not that we shouldn’t attempt to implement processes and strategies for leadership development. But we can’t allow our lack of strategies keeps us from doing one of the most basic things to help develop the leaders around us.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “great leaders ask great questions.” That’s true. Equally true is this statement:

“Great leaders grow leaders through asking great questions.”

Asking the growing leaders around you great questions is perhaps the most overlooked leadership development opportunity.


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The Five Steps of Effective Delegation

If you’ve been following this delegation conversation, you’ll remember that every effective delegation must come with specific responsibility and authority. That’s why the Levels of Delegation are critical to delegation success.

With that in mind, it’s worth considering the best steps for an effective delegation.

Here are five steps you as a leader need to take when delegating any task or project:

1. Decide on the right person: This might go without saying, but to be sure: Not everyone is capable of every task. I’d hate for someone to delegate accounting to me. Previous bosses never did that, so I’m assuming they recognized my other abilities.

When you prepare to give away a job or task, consider what will be required and ensure the person you select has the innate skill and margin for success.

2. Specify the desired results: Read (or reread) the Levels of Delegation post. Defining the level defines the desired result.

3. Develop a timeline: This is an often missed step. The person on the other side of your delegation needs clarity on task and time. By time, I don’t mean, “this is important.” That’s not specific. Delegate with deadlines. If the job is multifaceted, define the timelines for each segment of the work.

“Develop” doesn’t mean dictate, though. Developing a timeline means you, as the leader, involve the person on the other side of the delegation input on the timeline. It’s unfair to expect someone to meet a deadline when they aren’t allowed input on the timeline.

4. Define the individual’s or team’s authority: Authority is critical to success. Please never give away a task or project without the necessary authority to finish the job. And don’t assume authority is assumed. Be clear that you are giving them the power needed for the delegated responsibility, especially in Level 3 or Level 4 delegations.

5. Remain available: No matter what the level of delegation, you should remain available to support the task or project. Don’t abdicate when you delegate. Remain engaged to help. That’s not micromanaging — that’s good leadership.

I know what some of you are feeling: This will be more frustrating than just doing it myself. Maybe. But what I do know is a lack of delegation brings much worse results than frustration.

Remember, the goal of successful delegation is neither to micromanage everything nor to abdicate your role completely, but to create personal margin, develop other leaders, and increase overall capacity and output.

The Four Levels of Delegation

No leader wants to be the lid for their organization, experience burnout from attempting to manage it all, and see their staff teams flee to better opportunities. However, leaders who are unwilling or unable to delegate will experience it all, and more.

If you’re unwilling to delegate, I can’t help you.

If you are unable, I’ve got great news: Leaders who learn to give away specific responsibility and authority unleash their organization and the leaders within.

To delegate well, leaders need to define versions of delegations. I call that the Levels of Delegation.

Here is a preview of the four levels. For all the details, click for the full article.

Level 1 – Investigation
Level 2 – Informed Progress
Level 3 – Informed Results
Level 4 – Ownership

The level approach to delegation automatically gives responsibility and authority clarity.

Trust me: Your team wants to those tasks and opportunities.

Three Inevitable Outcomes When Leaders Refuse to Delegate


Here’s a preview of part 1. Click to read all the details.

Leaders who are unable or unwilling to delegate to others destroy organizational and personal potential.

No leader does this on purpose, but without a clear delegation plan, the results are inevitable.

As an organization grows, so does the complexity and the need for capacity. No leader has enough ability to lead a growing organization alone indefinitely. A lack of delegation leads to unavoidable results:

1. Leadership burnout
2. Organizational stagnation
3. Staff departures

I assume you don’t want an organization small enough to be managed alone. I doubt you want your best leaders to find other organizations where they can thrive. And I know you don’t want to burn out along the way.

Not to oversimplify these leadership dilemmas, but delegation is a massive part of the answer.

Do Labels Limit Potential?

Do you have a label maker in your workplace? Or maybe at home like I do? A small little printer with only one purpose in life: labels. My wife really loves label maker, which explains our pantry. She’s labeled every bin, which felt like overkill until I needed to distinguish between powdered sugar and all-purpose flour. A light dusting of flour on your pancakes isn’t a good as you probably imagine!

My wife isn’t alone in her love of labeling. People by nature love to label things. You have probably labeled something today — or many somethings. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. And that could be a good thing. Labels are helpful. And labels give context. A label describes what we know and what we can expect. Powdered sugar or flour. Black beans or green.

Here’s where labeling goes downhill. Unfortunately, as a leader, our propensity to label things often transfers to labeling people. We do it for the same reason as the bins in my pantry — labeling people gives us context. It helps us understand who people are and what we can expect. We label people through personality test, which is often helpful, as these types of tests give us context on how to best lead individuals individually. We label people’s roles though job descriptions and titles. Again, helpful for us and the person on the other end of the role. If we could stop the labeling there, maybe all would be fine. But we don’t. In fact, it’s as if we can’t. We love context too much to stop with personality characteristics and job descriptions.