HR Forum

Knowing the Difference Between Delegating and Abdicating

Question: I get angry and frustrated with myself for not getting the results I want from my direct reports despite giving them the room to make decisions on how they want to get their work done.

I have told them many times that I am giving them a lot of leeway with little interference, and guidance should they need, to help them in their career growth.

The hardest thing to accept is that my peer managers are getting better results and enjoy a happier relationship with their team when their style is a lot more ‘autocratic’. What is it that I have done wrong?



It is usually the ‘lazy’ way of delegating that produces lesser-than-expected results than those who work a little harder through more autocratic ways. Merely giving an order (with minimum instructions on the ‘how to’) is a sure recipe for failure.

Hence, your ‘freewheeling’ ways would not work better than those who exercise more control on the decision making part of the process.

One possible reason that your peer managers are getting results is that they provide more support to their people with details on what is expected and how things should be done.

In contrast, your method of simply calling out orders and expecting your team to know what to do, will not prove effective if they do not know how or where to start.

When you sincerely want to delegate, you need to ensure some key conditions are present. The first and very important condition is that the goal you want is measurable.

Take for example, you want a staff of yours to chair a meeting. You’d need to first elect someone who has the potential to do this, and at the same time you’d want to spell out what you want to see coming out of the meeting, which could be on full attendance and what they are expected to perform after the meeting.

The second condition is evaluating how realistic your goals and expectations are. Coming back to the outlined meeting example; if you expect your people to give you an incredible timeline, you would not only be disappointed with your team, but your team would feel the same about you too.

The third condition is to identify and acknowledge critical constraints. These can range from a person’s capabilities, available resources, circumstances and more. The more detailed and realistic you are, the higher your chances of success.

Powerful Questions You Can Ask Yourself:

• What are your true reasons for wanting to delegate?

• What do you want to see being achieved as a result of this?

• What can you learn about the current failures that you do not want to see being repeated?

• What are the successes that you are getting now that you want to see more of the next time?

Article by Dr Michael Heah, an ICF Credentialed Coach with