How to do allocation vs delegation

One common senior leader challenge is, doing all the work themselves. And not delegating. Or even worse, micro-managing. Which is a recipe for disaster. And burnout. And pressure. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When senior leaders have the realisation that they have to be resourceful, and not the resource, their world shifts. And so does their leadership team and all teams in the business. 

Here’s the thing, though. Delegation is a word that has a negative connotation for most leaders. It feels like they are doing something nasty to their team members. Or that delegation only happens when things are going badly. Like, when everyone is stressed. Then, we need to delegate. 

I feel like delegation has a negative connotation for both the leader, and for the team members. No-one likes being delegated too. It feels abrupt, it feels aggressive, and it feels aloof. Especially when it is delivered in a delegation type of way. The issue with delegation is that it is very one way. Unlike task allocation, which is more of a consultative process (and a business process), that involves a discussion and agreement. It is a two-way conversation. Let me explain why you should allocate, not delegate. 

1. Allocation is engaging 

Leaders need to assign work. They need to ask for support. They need to allocate tasks to individual team members. Particularly when the pressure is on. Allocation takes time, because it is about the conversation, it is about the dialogue, and it is about the consensus. 

The allocation of tasks and projects should include a conversation about why that task or project is important, what deadlines need to be achieved, and when those deadlines need to be achieved by. Your team members might even have some ideas to share about what could be modified or changed, as part of the current plan. Then you get the opportunity to listen, learn, and lean into some optioneering. Engaging. 

2. Allocation is Effective 

Allocation is most effective when delivered as part of a process. That process should outline the allocation of tasks with something like a RACI matrix (which states clearly who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed, about all of the activities completed by the team members). Too often, roles and responsibilities get blurred, and the term swim lanes comes up… ‘you need to stay in your swim lane’. 

That way, allocation becomes effective as a team activity, as well as a one-to-one activity. Allocation, by its very nature, means to spread the work, to assign the activities, to align the tasks with the RACI matrix. It is effective because when it becomes a team activity, it creates clarity, consistency, and commitment. All team members are aware of their roles and responsibilities and can talk to progress and project updates as and when required. Allocating activities to teams reduces ambiguity and uncertainly. It sets the team up for success, and it sets the team up for high performance. Effective. 

3. Allocation is Essential 

With a RACI matrix in place, allocation becomes easy. If tasks need to be modified or managed in a way that is not aligned with the matrix, further task allocation is required, to walk the team through what needs to be modified and why. Having good business processes for the allocation of tasks is a key element of effective and high performing teams. Essential. 

In summary, allocation is engaging, it is effective, and it is essential to a high performing team and a high performing leader. Unlike delegation, and the process of telling team members what to do, allocation is about engaging with them to help every team member know what the team is doing, and why. It might sound like splitting hairs when I unpack allocation versus delegation – you only have to sit in coaching session with me to see the emotional shift when we change that one word, and share how it is done properly. 

Please reach out if you need to talk. 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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