R.A.T.S. Delegation

In writing a recent post for my other blog


about planning and delegation, I fell into a set of 4 principles that define how to delegate successfully. The principles are Responsibility, Accountability, Trust, Success or RATS.

Here is the excerpt from that post:


But in reality, delegation in leadership is not about getting other people to do the work. It is about leadership development. It is about participatory ownership.


Delegation is not dumping the work on someone, and watching to see whether they succeed or fail. Delegation is assigning responsibility, developing accountability, building trust and engineering success…


Do those things sound good? Of course they do. Do you know how to do it, probably not. Most leaders (regardless of occupation) struggle with delegation. Lets talk about 4 principles of delegation:


Assign Responsibility – Responsibility is ownership. The responsible one must get the task done, the goal accomplished, the mission complete. But how do they know what to do? How do they know what not to do? To assign responsibility well, you must communicate clearly what done means. You need to clearly communicate any constraints or concerns about how things get done. You can offer a “game plan” but remember, execution is up to the responsible one. He may not do it the way you would. He will play to his strengths, not yours.


Develop Accountability – Accountability is the other side of responsibility. It is how you ensure he is doing OK. Accountability is about interaction. How frequently do you check up to see how things are going. How well do you respond to inquiries when he has questions or issues. To develop accountability in delegation, it is best to start with frequent formal communication. Over time, when the accountability relationship is established, this can become less frequent and less formal. Both of you need to learn how long you can go without communicating.


Build Trust – The responsible one needs to demonstrate that he can execute within mission constraints, get to done, demonstrate accountability by sharing information. The delegating leader needs to build trust by carefully articulating mission constraints, providing encouragement, responding to information in a safe, rational way. The delegating leader needs to build trust by not taking responsibility back when the responsible party is struggling, but by working with the individual to ensure success. The delegating leader needs be comfortable with the responsible person making the game plan his own. Trust is built when you allow them to succeed their own way. They will succeed best by playing to their own strengths. For many leaders this is frustrating to watch, yet if you make them do it “your way” they are more likely to fail.


Engineer Success – When you delegate responsibility, YOU must engineer success by creating the means by which the responsible parties will MAKE themselves accountable. You engineer success, by ensuring that the responsible parties have the resources and information that they need. Until you understand the capacity of the responsible person to work independently, you collaborate frequently, establishing touch points, reviewing work plans. Until they are capable of predicting their resource needs, or the challenges they will face, you must do this for them, and yourself be prepared to provide resources, and remove obstacles or challenges. If you delegate without doing these things, you are simply setting the responsible person up for failure.

Since I post more frequently about leadership on this blog, I am interested to hear if these principles resonate with any of you.

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