Are you delegating or abdicating?

There’s an important difference between delegating and abdicating. When you delegate to someone, you give them responsibility for something, but you stay in the information loop. Abdicating is when you give somebody responsibility and then you disappear and you’re not in the information loop. Then what happens? All of a sudden someone says, “Do you know what’s happening?” Now you have become the classic manager of all time; what I call the Seagull Manager. You fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out. Why do you do that? Because you didn’t know what was happening in the first place.

If you’re delegating, you’re turning over responsibility to someone else, but you’re still in the loop so you know at what point you might need to get involved again and maybe help in some way. But if you turn your back on the situation, you have abdicated and you are helpless. You become a seagull manager. And remember—people don’t like to be dumped on when you haven’t been around.

So delegate, don’t abdicate. People don’t mind you being in the information loop because then they can get your help when they need it.

3 thoughts on “Are you delegating or abdicating?

  1. I always tell my team that you can delegate responsibility (asking them to do something) but managers and leaders always retain accountability (being held to account).

    Often I think managers try to delegate accountability, shielding themselves from any criticism should things not go according to plan.

    I like the seagull analogy!

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