Perfectionists out there, delegate

Everyone knows the principles around effective delegation, yet we continue to struggle with it. Aaron De Smet, Gerald Lackey, and Leigh M. Weiss in their McKinsey Quarterly article Untangling Your Organization’s Decision-Making take another look at delegation. Their research suggests:

“Make a list of the top 20 regularly occurring decisions. Take the first decision and ask three questions:

  1. Is this a reversible decision?
  2. Does one of my direct reports have the capability to make this decision?
  3. Can I hold that person accountable for making the decision?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then delegate the decision. Continue down your list of decisions until you are only making decisions for which there is one shot to get it right and you alone possess the capabilities or accountability.”

To all of you perfectionists or those who possess a high standards mindset (I’m at risk here), pay close attention to question #1. Is this reversible? For us perfectionists, it’s difficult to effectively draw the line on what important decisions we need to reserve for ourselves and which ones we should empower our people to make. However, if the decision is reversible (without significant penalty), we should not worry too much, delegate it. It can be fixed and our people learn that we do indeed trust their judgment.

Therefore, if their decision is reversible, delegate it. If they possess the ability to decide, delegate it. If you want to develop, empower people and build their trust, delegate it.