Delegating with authority Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Charles Young Jr. realizes that his 300 employees are at different stages in their lives with different priorities — for example, an employee who is right out of college may be more focused on career than an employee who is married with children.

Young says it’s important to realize when your employees’ values change and to ask yourself if your company — and the individual — can adjust.

You may also want to consider whether you want your employees working 14 or 15 hours a day, says the CEO of SDE Business Partnering LLC, a custom service integrator. If they’re working that many hours, you may need to question whether they have good organizational skills, whether they are structured and whether they know how to delegate, especially if they are in a leadership role, Young says.

Smart Business spoke with Young about how to delegate the right way and how to monitor an employee’s progress on a project.

Give employees authority when delegating. A lot of people want to delegate and give responsibility and no authority. If you are going to truly delegate, you have to give the authority to make it happen along with the responsibility.

That’s the key to delegation. If you are going to give a leader the responsibility to go do project X and bring it in on time, but every time he needs something done, (he’s) got to come check in with you, then everyone will look at the authority and who’s running the project because it’s not the leader or the person. They’ll look at you because, ‘Well, I’ve got to go check with my boss.’ Well, eventually you have no authority.

A lot of leaders think they are delegating, but they’re really not. Because they are afraid that, ‘OK, if I give this, it won’t be done quite the way I would do it.’ Well, that’s true. And guess what? That’s how you get innovation; you get new ideas. So you have to be open-minded that everything is not going to be actually the way you want it to be. It has to be some creativity and allow people to grow.

Will there be mistakes in that? Yes. How do people grow if they don’t make mistakes? But, you have to understand if there is a good, solid individual coming through and you are trying to mentor them and teach them. You have to delegate the right amount of authority and the right amount of responsibility. At some point (with) a new person, you may not delegate the authority, but you tell them why because they are not in a position that they can really make that decision?

When you give authority, you are giving a lot of responsibility, and, in our company, authority means you can spend dollars or you can affect other people’s lives. When you do that, that’s authority. You’ve given some kind of control over something, some assets.

Monitor progress. True delegation is you have some checkpoints, but you qualify those and say, ‘Here’s what I need done. Make sure you’ve got all the resources to make that happen. Get it done.’

It’s simple questions. Ask the question and listen. How they respond to the question will tell you, do they really know? Sometimes, they’ll go really deep into detail, and sometimes, they are very vague. If you say, ‘Are you on time?’ They say, ‘We are doing great.’ There is a confidence level people go into when they really think.

When you get that hesitation, say, ‘Tell me a little bit more.’ Now, you’re just digging. ‘Did you try this?’ You haven’t de-empowered them. They may have been afraid to come ask because they’re like, ‘Oh, if I ask, then he thinks I can’t do it.’

Have some control mechanisms around it. Report in however frequently you feel comfortable, but you put controls around it. But when they make the mistake, you have to stand behind that.

It doesn’t mean you perpetuate foolishness. It just says you know they made the mistake, accept the mistake and move on. They will make mistakes because you made them to get in your position.

I can guarantee you I made a lot of mistakes, and the difference between me and another person is maybe the way their boss responded to those mistakes.

Be honest. Everything you do, you stand behind it. It’s the little things that make a difference. If you compromise little things, people will see that and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, you say honesty and you say integrity, but he went over there and just lied to the customer or he did this or he lied to me.’

It’s the little things day in and day out that demonstrate that you have that honesty and integrity, and people see through it very quickly if you have a smoke screen on it. The way you know you have it is they come to you with some things that are sometimes considered personal, and they share with you and [are] willing to entrust you in their inner circle.

That means they have some confidence that you have that integrity and honesty, and you won’t backlash on them with it. But yet, you’ve got to be very open and candid, too. Sometimes, good leadership isn’t always you’re a good person. Sometimes, good leadership is just telling people you aren’t the right person for the job.

HOW TO REACH: SDE Business Partnering LLC, (313) 656-2200 or