Posted by: gotrain | September 9, 2008

Delegating Up!

If you cannot delegate down you can always delegate up, or try at least. That’s what often happens in a lot of organizations and it is a dangerous situation and trap to fall into. There was a time when management training programs had gone overboard and were teaching managers to be helpers, that there job was to support and help their direct reports to do their jobs well. This is true to some extent but can easily become overblown to the point where the manager is actually doing the job of the person and thus shirking some of his own responsibilities. And what do you think ends up getting neglected? It’s usually the soft aspects of the job like coaching and training staff, taking time to have problem solving meetings for getting people to participate in continuous improvement etc. Managers often claim they have so much work and responsibilities that they don’t have time for those extra things, other than just getting their production tasks done.

I do volunteer work for an organization where I have a leadership/management role and yesterday another manager sent me an email asking me to find someone to translate an important document that is needed quickly to meet the need of an upcoming event. My immediate reaction was no, this is not my job and I need to tell her that it her responsibility to find a translator. She wanted me to do her job and solve her problem. So I carefully formulated a reply to let her know that that was her job not mine and suggested two people I thought could help her right away.

Different people would respond differently to her request. I look at it in terms of the type of person I am, based on the Three Brain Synergy approach that I learned from Fritz Glaus and that we are currently teaching to leaders and managers. My main motivation is accomplishment and my qualities are action oriented, practical, motivated to do the right thing amongst others. So her request that contained a sense of urgency would have been easy for me to do because I like getting things done fast and well. I could easily have forwarded her email to the two people I knew who would do it quickly. I also know from my Profile XT report that I score a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 on accommodating. That means I have developed a personality trait that seeks to help others and at times I find myself being too accommodating and getting taken advantage of.

I knew instantly that if I complied with her request I would not only take time away from other important matters but I would also be solving her problem for her rather than encouraging her to take full responsibility for her area. There is a fine line between providing support and saving someone by solving the problem for them. Good support would be to encourage them to use their own ability to think out of the box and solve their own problems. If she finds that my response indicates I am not helping her sufficiently, it is an opportunity for me to explain to her my position and discuss further so we can both learn from it. Perhaps she is doing the same with the people in her team, accepting to do things for them rather than supporting them in having them take full responsibility.




  1. I did have the opportunity to engage in more discussion with the person about her request and my response. At first she sounded a bit aelf-protective and defended her approach. Finally she asked me for a suggestion on a better way she could have asked me for help. She didn’t think she was asking me to do the job for her but only for help in finding the person to translate. However, I explained to her that her original request was written “can you please find someone to translate this document?” This sounds to me like she is asking me to actually find someone and ask them to do it. In the end she accepted my feedback and seemed to agree with my suggestion.


  2. Thanks for the information. Added you to bookmark))
    Your new reader.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s