They really do exist: the perfect followers. They are enthusiastic and motivated for the job and they have the skills to do it right. What more could you wish for? Now if only leaders would know how to delegate really…Because that’s the leadership style you need to apply to this group according to the theory of situational leadership. Delegating means transferring the task and the responsibility that goes with it, to someone else. If you don’t delegate, these perfect followers will become unmotivated quicker than you can say Charlie Sheen.

So here are six things you need to stop doing to truly delegate and prevent followers from becoming unmotivated:

1. Neglect them

They may be capable and enthusiastic, but that doesn’t mean you can forget all about them. Every volunteer and student needs to feel seen and appreciated. Delegating doesn’t mean you don’t ever have to think of them again. Take the time to thank them and let them know that their work is valued. Don’t ever forget to invest time in the relationship and spend some time with them every now and then.

2. Smother them

Someone who has the skills to do the job will get irritated real fast of you don’t let go and keep checking on them. Delegating means showing them your trust and giving them room to do the job themselves. I’ve had a leader once who had asked me to do something and then came by every day to see of everything was okay, if I was handling it and if I did it exactly as he asked. It gave me the feeling there was no real trust, even though I had already proven I was more than capable. Don’t make that mistake. Delegate and resist the temptation to keep checking in. Just let them know they can always contact you if they have any questions or want to discuss something.

Delegating means letting go and keeping a healthy distance (photo: Marcelo Terraza) Delegating means letting go and keeping a healthy distance (photo: Marcelo Terraza)

3. Over-instruct

If you have ascertained that the person you’re entrusting the job to has the skills, you need to give only basic instructions when you delegate. If they have organizational experience for instance, they don’t need you to tell them what they should start with, or what steps they should take. What is important to communicate, are critical success factors, those things or people that you know make the difference between success or failure. That is crucial information they need to have.

4. Insist on your way

Giving someone else the responsibility implies letting go of ‘your way’ of doing things. You can’t force a follower who is clearly capable of doing the job, to execute it exactly as you would have done. You have to accept that it gets done in a different way. And who knows, you might just learn a thing or two from how someone else approaches it!

5. Delegate, only not really

Delegating means letting go. If you ask someone else to do something, it means you don’t do it yourself. Pretty obvious huh? Yet I’ve seen leaders make this mistake time and again. They ask someone else to do something, yet they end up doing half the work themselves because they can’t let go. This has often to do with the feeling that no one else can do the job as well as they can, that only they can do it perfectly. That way of thinking will not only result in a burnout sooner or later (and probably sooner) but it will also make you a very ineffective leader, because no one want to follow someone who insists on doing it all himself. Delegate and let go.

6. Create vague guidelines

If you transfer responsibilities, it should be very clear what the boundaries are within which the follower can operate. When should they involve you? What kind of decisions are they allowed to make and where do they need to ask you for permission? It’s essential that these ‘rules’ are clear, for it avoids confusion and misunderstandings.

For instance, I always made it clear to any students who had responsibilities that they had to ask my permission for any financial commitment they were entering into and that they were not allowed to formally sign any document, in which they represented the youth ministry or me. This was perfectly clear to everyone and there was never any misunderstanding in this area.

What is your weakness in delegating? Where do you have trouble letting go?