What to do When Others Delegate UP to You

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Every day we get tasks piled upon us and we have to decide what to do with them.

As I see it tasks can be handled in 3 ways;
Either you do them yourself, delegate them to an employee or delegated up to a boss.

Most people are very poor at delegating down in the corporate ladder because they know they will still be responsible for the outcome and therefore choose to do it by themselves.

Doing tasks yourself gives you the lowest output compared to the time you put in. A rule of thumb is that one person can manage up to 12 people. This means that your time can be worth the work of 12 people if you delegate tasks to them.
Read more about delegation in this article and how to follow it up in this.

Delegating upwards on the other hand is easy, you give away both the task and the responsibility.
Delegating upwards just makes you life easier;
but if you are the one being delegated to, what do you do?

All of a sudden you might be doing the work of all 12 of your employees.

Don’t work for your employees
A better solution is to show them how to solve the problems themselves, don’t take over the problem.
It will always feel easier just to give them the answer, but that way they will not learn to solve the problems themselves, they will develop the habit of coming to you with every question and might start feel obligated to start coming to you every time they are uncertain, rather than risk making a mistake.
Although it is important that people feel like they can ask your advice it is better that they learn to solve their problems themselves.

By asking questions like;
“Okay, what is the solution to this problem?”
“What alternatives are there?”
“How can we gather the necessary information?”
“What would you do?”

They will learn to think about the problem and usually realize that they have the answers themselves, if they don’t know the answer let them do some research and then come back, don’t just hand them the solution. You can help by pointing them to resources and make sure they are on the right track.

This will help your employees work out problems and come to you with the solutions instead.

My experience
When I got my first managerial position I would help my employees anyway I could, I would give them every answer I knew and I was very liked because of it.
The problem though as time went on I realized my team was becoming less creative, coming to me for every problem, they became less efficient and they stopped improving. They basically just followed my advice to the letter.

When I started to understand this and read about leadership in books like “From good to great” “What to do when you become the boss” “The 7 habits of highly effective people” “The 8th habit” and so on, I became a much better manager and my people starting working smarter and smarter.

I hope you liked this article and found it useful.
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Related posts:

  1. Dealing With Stress at Work – Learning to Delegate
  2. Over vs. Under Selling
  3. Following up on Delegation – Coping with Stress at Work
  4. How to Stop Procrastinating – The 15 Minute Method
  5. How to Conduct an Effective Needs Analysis That Wins You the Contract
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4 Responses to What to do When Others Delegate UP to You

  1. Fred Tracy says:

    I don’t know if I’ll ever be a manager, but this is some good advice.

    I can see how spoon feeding people the answers will just lead them becoming reliant on you. I know that as an employee I prefer working with lots of autonomy and trust. I’m sure most people are that way.

    I’m curious about that 8th habit of Steven Covey’s. I’ll have to check out that post.

    • Daniel M. Wood says:

      Hey Fred,

      I think the 8th habit will interest you and that it will give you another look into being a coach and manager.

  2. Jayne Kopp says:

    Hi Daniel, great advice for those who manage others as I did for 15 years when I ran my own brick and mortar business.

    I know all about employees delegating to ME. For quite some time I would find they came to be with every fart cramp. The end result was I was doing my own work as well as their.

    Finally I had a meeting with everyone and in a very pleasant way, I explained that I wanted them to feel empowered and in charge. Even though it was my business, I let them know that I had picked everyone of them because I knew they were bright and responsible. I also told them that I would rather them use common sense and make a wrong decision than no decision at all.

    It did the world of good because it boosted their moral and in a funny way, self worth. It also showed trust and a little love! :-)

    From that point forward they became for the most part their own managers. They also enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere because they knew I never would breath over their shoulder.

    I also made it very clear though, that my door was always open… and in fact I did actually work amongst them.

    With the new feeling of ownership though it worked wonders for them.

    I really miss those days in some ways… but I am glad I work from home now.

    With that said, I am considering outsourcing a few tasks in the near future because I know that my time is better spent on things within my scope!

    Great advice though.


    • Daniel M. Wood says:

      Hey Jayne,

      Thanks for sharing your story!
      It is so easy to make that mistake, but once you see it, it does become easy to change.

      It must have been a very powerfull meeting you held :)

      Good luck to you!

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