Campus Blog

Delegating or Dele-dumping?

Bob Fuhs

As a leader, you’re always thinking about raising up new leaders. More leaders means more gets done, more ministry happens, and more people hear about Jesus. But building into new leaders takes work. Sometimes delegating looks like dumping and sometimes it looks like micromanaging. Odds are you want to avoid those. So, what can you do?

Leadership guru Ken Blanchard says that leaders primarily use two types of behaviors: directive behaviors and supportive behaviors. We get into trouble when we fail to use the right behaviors when training someone to do a job. What behaviors you choose to use, he says, are dependent on the skill level and the commitment level of the trainee. In his Situational Leadership Model, he offers four steps to effective delegation.

Step 1: If your trainee is high on commitment, but low on skill, you need to use more directive behaviors and they don’t need much by way of supportive behaviors. If you are a staff MTL, think of your new staff or interns here. They are probably excited to get cranking on campus, but probably need some clear direction from you. If you do it right, that direction won’t be perceived as micromanaging. Eventually they move to...

Step 2: In this stage, the trainee is growing in skill but now the commitment is wavering and even low. Your direction has helped them, but now they are realizing that the task isn’t as easy as it once seemed, or maybe not as fun. Blanchard says now you need to add more supportive behaviors. You need to encourage them, ask them questions, support them, and even help them do what they’ve been asked to do. This is where many leaders fail. They try and move right from Step 1 to Step 4 (we will get to that in a minute), but you can’t do that without adding more supportive behaviors.

Step 3: As your trainee progresses, they keep gaining skill and then get a higher degree of commitment. In this stage, you are more or less hands off. You give them day-to-day decision-making power, so your directive behaviors are low, but you still need to keep supportive behaviors high. Check in with them periodically, offer encouragement and be available to help and answer questions.

Step 4: This is where you want to get to. At this point, the student has become the teacher. They know what to do and are motivated to do it. You have, in effect, multiplied your life. In this stage, you can be pretty much hands-off: low in direction and low in supportive behaviors. In this stage, anything more will be perceived as micromanaging.

Another way I’ve heard this model explained is: Stage 1 is Modeling , Stage 2 is Mentoring , Stage 3 is Monitoring , and Stage 4 is Multiplying .

Take some time and evaluate your current training or delegating style. If the people you lead seem to be floundering or if you find yourself doing everything, think about where your people are and what they most need from you. Do you need to add more supportive behaviors? Have you given enough direction? Are you modeling the ministry or just hoping people eventually catch on?

Like Jethro said to Moses, “You are not able to do it alone.” Train people well, delegate well, and you can put those lonely days behind you.

* Photo courtesy of Marshall Astor (Flickr Creative Commons).

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