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How do you engage Delegation?

by | Sep 14, 2020 | Art Blakey, Delegation, engage

As things are stabilizing this fall, more and more people are offering on-line workshops.  The ability to teach to an audience that can be global, without having to rent a room, organize food, travel, etc, has been remarkable.  Done well, you can actually create a better experience, leveraging small breakout rooms to increase the intimacy and engagement in ways that are better  As we were walking the other day (another habit that we are nearly up to 180 days in a row…the same as these postings…) my wife asked if I could teach only one workshop that would have the most impact on leaders’ development, what would it be?  Having taught for 12 years in multiple MBA programs, and worked with 1000’s of leaders, I have plenty of material – but only one topic… what would make the most impact? 

There are so many fundamental skills critical to Leadership that to focus on only one is an interesting challenge.  You know my love of Listening, and Questions, and Feedback…. but after thinking about it, what came out was this: “Delegation – without mastering it, no business can scale.”  Like most things I say, I would strongly suggest if you think if that is true ;-)… and use the week to consider some elements of Delegation, what makes it trickier than it might appear, and discover together if this is really the key that I blurted out. As we engage, consider those around you, and how you interact with them around accomplishing things.  Often good examples come from Family Systems, where our natural tendencies are formed earliest, and play out  without us even noticing. What makes Delegation happen well, and what happens when the results are not what either anticipated….

Scaling up a business also triggered the thought on what Theme in music could underpin the discussion.  Trying to vary the music types also sent me into one of my favorite fields of music – Jazz – and back into the 50’s or earlier when that uniquely American form of music was really blossoming.  I could use Miles Davis – who in various albums would simply sketch out a few bars, and expect the other players to “fill in what comes to them”.  Or Benny Goodman who sought out the best possible talent for his band through many iterations and generations.  But the name that came to mind was Art Blakey…. who in the Jazz Messengers found, developed, and graduated talent in all areas of Jazz.  It also is interesting that her you see that Delegation and Succession Planning are related…

….so what exactly is Delegation?  If you expect me to give you some textbook definition… In my world it is …wait for it… “empowering” others to do work that needs to be done 😉  The reason I believe it is the most important skill is it embodies all of the qualities we think so much about.  For engage, the first thing to think about are the elements. I often think about ti as a Rubik’s Cube.  You have Work that needs to be done, you have People to delegate it to (or from) , and you have techniques of Communication to get those connected.  Feedback provides the consistent turning of the Cube until the results are achieved. As with most Leadership competencies, it involves lots of iterations to master, including the other element I always assume but forget to mention – You 😉 

Art Blakey engaged in music from an early age.  Born in 1919 to a single mother who died shortly after birth, he fell in with other cousins and showed a talent for piano.  Varying accounts are he was forced from piano to drums “at gunpoint” but either way, he progressed through all of the great bands of the 30’s – Fletcher Henderson, Billy Eckstine, and a tour with Thelonious where he was described as “his most empathetic drummer”.  That sounds like a clue to good Delegation – another good competency – empathy.  And I like have a drummer be our guide – he will keep the rhythm and pace around us as we look for clues in our own instruments. He starts out this track so you can hear him clearly – and then disappears as he Delegates the rhythm and melody to the other players in one of the first Jazz Messengers tracks to start our journey together…. from a live gig in New York in 1955 – The Theme.

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