How to Give Away Authority & Responsibility
The larger an organization gets, the more important it is to diversify who has the authority and responsibility. If one person holds it all, they will burn out and the organization will be ineffective (and likely not grow any further, as this creates a “leadership lid”). Yet there is a lot of fear and concern about giving away too much. There are two keys that must be present for delegation of both responsibility and authority to be effective. One key resides in the people recieving the responsibility and authority and one key in the the one(s) who are giving it away.
Let’s talk first about the receiver. The receiver must have character. They must be teachable, always eager to learn and grow. They must want the best of the organization which means they must have no personal agenda and thier ego should be kept in check. Lastly, the must be trustworthy. Trust is typically developed through relationship and time and the “giver” should spend significant time and energy ensuring that is built, as the success of the hand-off and the growth of the organization depend on it. While much of this character can be taught, shaped and developed, it is clear that the more we can recruit people who already have some of this already, the better we will be.
The second piece is from the giver. The giver must work hard on delivering clarity. It’s clarity that makes the difference. The less clear the giver is on what they value, where they’re going, how they want things done, what they’re about etc. the more likelihood that bad decisions will be made by those who receive both responsibility and authority. However, if the receiver is equipped with a crystal clear picture of the ethos, the vision, the values, and even the strategy then they will be able to make decisions even when the giver is not present. And the amazing thing is those decisions have a high likelihood of being similar decisions that the giver would have made in a similar situation. Part of equipping is not just providing responsibility and authority but the missing piece in most hand-offs is clarity.
When I say clarity, I’m not referring to micro-management or detailing every possible scenario, response or procedure. I am talking about clarity at a higher level. The receiver needs to be able to think to himself/herself, “this is who we are, this is how we do things, at the end of the day, this is what we’re about and what we’re trying to do.” When they have this information they will be able to operate with the vision and strategy in clear view, those things become the filter by which any action, decision or interaction are put through. They will be able to train others, handle comments and questions and even back major decisions.
I don’t want to underestimate how difficult this level of clarity is to gain, but the more work that can be done on this, the more successful the growth and expansion will be. Sometimes you don’t know every aspect of clarity, sometimes you only know a rough direction and that may be sufficient in the early stages of growth, however, this topic can’t be a “get around to it eventually” kind of thing. It must be front burner because the less clear the leader is the greater potential for the organization to go sideways or just never go at all. We need to expand our teams, give away our authority and responsibility to capable people and we owe it to them and the organization to get as clear as possible on as much as possible and communicate it well.