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By David Lund

Delegation has three dimensions that are powerful tools. Delegation is also quite often misunderstood. In this article I am going to explain my thoughts on how to use delegation to be more productive, to grow your own abilities and to help you see the way forward using delegation to develop others.

First off let’s examine what delegation is all about and clear up some misunderstandings. I for one was not a fan of being delegated to early in my career and I did not understand how to use it properly. I thought I was being “put upon” by being delegated to. It was not until I had my first post as an assistant controller that I started to see delegation in a different light. I vividly remember my boss coming into my office to give me yet another assignment that previously was his task. I had been in this very new and challenging role for about six months. It felt like most days I was drowning. The work just kept coming. Yet again he was giving me a report to put together that needed to be sent to corporate by the next Tuesday. That was it—the straw that broke the camel’s back—so to speak.

“Why do I have to do another one of your chores?” I asked, somewhat frustrated, to put it mildly.

“Listen, David, I get to decide who is ready for more assignments around here and if you’re half as smart as I think you are, you will do the same!”

Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks. My initial reaction was: what a conceited and shallow attempt to manipulate me by dumping his work on my plate. This was yet again his MO and, to boot, he was even doggedly proud of it. This envelope hit me hard. There was no way I was going to be able to swim with this crap piling up and a never-ending supply of new bunk to deal with. I worked late that evening and, on my walk home, I was recanting the episode with my boss and had an epiphany! It flew at me out of the night sky.

“If you are half as smart as I think you are, you will do the same.”

What exactly did that mean? How was I going to do the same? What was the real message inside the envelope? I thought long and hard about this and the following day I decided to get some clarity.

I went to see my boss and asked him to tell me what I should be doing with delegation in my role. He smiled and said, “I was wondering how long it would take for you to wake up.”

He explained his view of the hotel finance office work world. It went like this: The work never stops coming. The assignments from corporate, the owners and the GM are not going away, in fact, they are going to get more and more frequent. That is just the way it is. To combat that it is our job to ensure these assignments are dealt with properly and to do that we need to take the work we have, the work we know how to do and delegate it to others. He said, and I will never forget these words, “If you know how to do something, it is time to give it up and teach someone else how to do it.”

“But how?” I asked, “Everyone is so busy.”

“By finding out what people want and helping them get it,” he said. This sounded like a con if there ever was one, I thought. Then he explained that people all want to grow and have greater responsibility and move ahead.

That is what we constantly need to be looking for and developing in our teams—an attitude of learning and progression. If we assume people are at their limits, then we just shut down the machine. Our job and quite frankly everyone’s job is to teach and develop, and the fuel for this growth is the work we do. Once he explained it to me that way I began to see what he meant. Could I learn to do the same?

First break-through as developer

The following day I sat down with our credit manager who was relativity new and green. I asked her what her goal was in the next two years. She said quite clearly to get out of the credit roll and on a path to be an accountant and eventually Controller. I was blown away by what came next. I offered to help her get there by showing her how to do some journals and reconciliations. I told her that it would be an additional workload, but I could also help her with the development of her credit and collections assistant who was chomping at the bit to become the credit manager. It seemed like someone just changed the music in our office and it now had a fresh and uplifting beat. These development exercises continued, and it was not long before I could see a much stronger and meaningful team developing.

I know what some of you are thinking and I want to dispel that right now. You think that some or most of your colleagues are maxed out and on top of that they do not want to move ahead. They are happy just where they are or maybe they are even blockers. This thinking will get you nowhere fast. It is victim thinking and you need to turn it around to owning it and finding a way to lead that means everyone is a development opportunity. People naturally want to make a difference. They just need to see this and it is your job to create this environment, to have those heartfelt conversations and always be creating.

The work we do is the fuel for development. When the work is properly positioned it takes on a whole new light. Think back if you will to your own development. Who helped you? Who is that individual that took you under his or her wing? I am willing to bet you that you would move heaven and earth for them. This is the kind of relationship you want to be constantly developing in your teams.

This is the first dimension of delegation. Be that mentor, be that trusted guide.

The second dimension of delegation is your growth. With an evolutionary plan underneath you, the path is being cleared for you to take on newer and bigger assignments. The people in your organization will see this and your career will be supercharged because you have demonstrated your ability to lead and expand.

The third dimension is the most exciting. What I have always learned and seen in the development and delegation of others is what I call one step closer. People always surprise me, and this translates into creating new and innovative ways to do things. A fresh set of eyes and an engaged mind lead to progress. A great example was that credit manager who was a few years younger than me and more than just a little comfortable with macros. She automated several of the journals and created a calendar tab process for the reconciliations. Both processes were her doing and they saved considerable time. This is the by-product of learning and development—new and continuous innovation.

“Delegation is giving others the opportunity to participate in the story. If you have a good story, people will line up to get involved – to play a part in the story.” – Eric Phillips

About David Lund

David Lund is The Hotel Financial Coach, an international hospitality financial leadership pioneer. He has held positions as a Regional Financial Controller, Corporate Director and Hotel Manager with Fairmont Hotels for over 30 years.  

He authored an award-winning workshop on Hospitality Financial Leadership and has delivered it to hundreds of hotel managers and leaders. David coach’s hospitality executives and delivers his Financial Leadership Workshops throughout the world, helping hotels, owners and brands increase profits and build financially engaged leadership teams.  

David speaks at hospitality company meetings, associations and he has had several financial leadership articles published in hotel trade magazines and he is the author of two books on Hospitality Financial Leadership. David is a Certified Hotel Accounting Executive through HFTP and a Certified Professional Coach with CTI.  

Contact: David Lund / (415) 696-9593

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