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When Delegating Goes Bad | Ovation Leadership

When Delegating Goes Bad

The Challenge:
Evaluating, or considering changes with Senior Leadership can be a considerable challenge.  Many times this executive has become more than a coworker. When leading together in times of both war and peace, a bond develops with deep emotional ties.  Sometimes, this leader had been hand-picked, mentored, and championed throughout the organization by you.
While these attributes of assessment, and change seem to be universal when reviewing any member of your Team, considering the future success of a senior executive reporting to you may bear extensive personal risks as well.   The “perception ladder”  holds more stakeholders when the reach of the senior executive extends beyond their own closely held team. 
As an example, typically the performance of an individual team member (with lesser company strategic impact) is perceived by perhaps only a few associates in addition to themselves and their immediate manager. However, when a leader’s career grows, and they extend their reach and impact upon the greater organization including its customers, vendors, employees and even its brand, there are far more contributors to the joint perception of the success (or lack thereof) of a leader.
As a result, the perceived performance or potential for success of the senior leader brings a shared responsibility to you, from amongst your peers. These peers, at the highest senior executive level of the company may tend to evaluate your personal performance on the merits of those you have hired, mentored, and led to make you more successful.
Perceptions may seem unfair or without merit because of the lack of knowledge of day-to-day challenges, barriers, and successes.  These perceptions of individual performance within the culture of an organization are real, and become more pronounced as the stakes become higher with executive level decision making.   Surrounding yourself with people who can make you more successful can be a double-edged sword when the perceived performance of those around you is not as successful as you would hope. Their perceived lack of integrity in their own performance now reflects on your ability to succeed in the eyes of others.
When evaluating, or considering changes with a senior leader, this “perception ladder”  overlaid upon the personal bond that has developed between yourself and the senior leader over time, does indeed create a considerable challenge.
Moving Forward:
Succession planning teaches us more than preparing for the eventual retirement of a key employee. An effective succession planning program ensures leadership continuity and the ability to build talent from within an organization. A key aspect of this ability is a focus upon competencies.
Competency in its pure form seeks to define underlying characteristics of an employee. Items such as skills, description of role, knowledge required, etc. is expected to lead to superior performance.  Competency models can therefore help to clarify differences between prescribed levels of performance.
Competencies can also be developed in a visionary form, helping to pinpoint what is required of key employees to be successful into the future. The discovered gap between current and future competencies clearly spell developmental needs for the individual, and on an aggregate basis, the entire organization.
More recently, use of competencies have also been extended used to link and align the organization and its culture to performance of each position. 
I see a competency framework within three specific groups.
  • Universal (required of everyone within the organization.   Emphasis upon brand, culture, and values of the organization are stressed here)
  • Leadership (measured from all employees in a supervisory, management, or leadership  responsibility of people or programs)
  • Individual (focused on knowledge, skill, ability, and experience relative to the specific position)
Channeling the perceptions of others into a formatted series of competency checks can be effective at controlling runaway perceptions based upon factors other than indicators of true success.   When evaluating a senior leader, look outside of your relationship with this coworker, friend, and key employee. Ask yourself, 
“How is this senior leaders ability to succeed based upon universal, leadership, and individual competencies as viewed by those around them?”  
A self evaluation by the senior leader and a separate independent assessment by you will complete the circle of knowledge.
Delegating at a senior level brings new and more dangerous implications.  When its good, wow, life is good and you succeed.  But, when it’s bad, yes, it’s really bad.  And when delegating goes bad at a senior level, it is more difficult to unravel and repair, and it impacts you personally.
  • Who is a senior level leader you delegate to?
  • What competencies exist where you assess delegating?
  • Where is delegation with a senior leader in trouble?
  • When do you apply competencies to assess delegation success?
  • How will you approach a senior leader who is failing?
If you want to learn more about the Rare Leader™ in you, 
or if you are interested in retaining Steve as your Executive Coach, 
Contact Steve Riege via: twitter, or his website.
One Response to When Delegating Goes Bad
  1. Brian Barwick
    June 9, 2011 | 4:00 pm

    Wow, this says a lot. Very powerful.

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