What My Father Taught Me About Delegation

By March 1, 2019Leadership

After serving as a mechanic on an aircraft carrier in WWII, my father returned to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to start the rest of his life. Like many military men of his generation, he married my mother on the day he got home.

My father began a career as an auto mechanic, harnessing the skills that he had learned in the military. He was a proficient technician, and figured out a way to change alternators without having to spend costly time removing a car’s engine block, which was the common practice at the time.

He was soon changing six alternators in the time it took other mechanics to change one!

Innovations like this quickly garnered him a management position. Like many employees who rise in their organizations, he was elevated to management because he was skilled at his entry-level work.

It is the approach taken next that separates great leaders from the pack.

Many recently elevated employees feel compelled to continue doing what they are good at. Rather than delegating the work that they had previously been doing, they continue excelling at what made them good in their former role.

Nurses who have been promoted to a head nursing assignment in part because of good bedside manner will be tempted to stay in the trenches, continuing their pattern of quality care.

Likewise, doctors who are promoted to division chief may be tempted to continue doing more consulting on cases and patient care than they should in their new post.

These are temptations to be avoided.

Your prerogative in a leadership position is exporting what made you great at your former role to the employees who you now oversee. Understanding the processes and practices that led to your success will help you maximize your impact.

Rather than staying under the hood of the car when he was elevated to a management position at the auto shop, my father began transferring his successes to his staff. Soon, every mechanic in the shop knew his alternator trick.

Stepping away from day-to-day, hands-on work gave him more time to think up new procedures that would make the whole crew more efficient. Sharing his ideas and techniques served as a multiplier effect to maximize his impact.

For the recently promoted head nurse or hospital division chief, putting this concept into practice means thinking through the modes of care that led to past successes. Delegating thusly will create the rising tide that lifts all boats.

THE TAKEAWAY: Elevation to a leadership position means stepping away from hands-on work and delegating to subordinates. Sharing procedural expertise is the best way to maximize your impact.

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