Calling All Founders and Entrepreneurs!

Mark Goulston
3 min readJun 9, 2023

“Delegate, Don’t Abdicate”

One of the more common challenges founders and entrepreneurs face when hiring individuals to handle tasks they don’t want to or can’t effectively handle themselves is to be too hasty in filling that position and then abdicate instead of delegate.

It’s crucial to strike a balance between delegating responsibility and maintaining control over key aspects of your business. Here are some insights and suggestions to consider when hiring and delegating:

  1. Due diligence in hiring: It’s essential to conduct thorough due diligence when hiring someone to take on critical responsibilities. This includes checking their references, evaluating their past performance, and assessing their ability to work well with others. Look for indications of their cooperative nature, willingness to compromise, and conflict resolution skills. And be on the lookout for when they have appeared uncooperative and overly controlling, unwilling to compromise and handling conflict poorly.
  2. Abdication vs. delegation: Abdication involves completely relinquishing control without adequately overseeing the work or ensuring accountability. Delegation, on the other hand, involves entrusting tasks to capable individuals while maintaining a level of oversight and involvement. Avoid abdicating responsibilities entirely and strive for effective delegation, which includes setting clear expectations, providing necessary resources, and maintaining regular communication. The more you abdicate tasks that you want to avoid, the more vulnerable you are to that person taking advantage by knowing how much you need them.
  3. Maintain accountability: Even when delegating tasks, it’s important to maintain a system of accountability. Regular check-ins, progress updates, and performance evaluations can help ensure that the person you’ve delegated to is meeting expectations. This helps prevent any potential misuse of authority or control by the individual and allows for early intervention if issues arise. One of the best tips I have heard regarding this comes from former State Farm executive, Stan Barkey, who suggests asking people you delegate something to, “Going forward and since most people become distracted by their many responsibilities, how do you want me to communicate with you in the event that you don’t do what I have asked you to do in the time that we both agreed you’d do it?” He found that this preemptive approach greatly reduced the time a manager (or founder/entrepreneur) would take in bringing something up to an employee, when they failed to do something you were relying on them to do.
  4. Effective communication: Clear and open communication is vital when delegating tasks. Clearly articulate your expectations, provide necessary guidelines and instructions, and encourage open dialogue. Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions, concerns, and suggestions.
  5. Address conflicts proactively: Conflict is a natural part of any organization, but it’s essential to address conflicts promptly and effectively. Encourage open dialogue, active listening, and the willingness to find mutually beneficial solutions. Seek individuals who are skilled at handling conflicts in a cooperative and compromising manner.
  6. Build a culture of trust: Trust is crucial in any working relationship. By hiring individuals with high ethics and integrity and fostering a culture of trust within your organization, you reduce the likelihood of control-related issues. When trust is established, it becomes easier to delegate and empower others, knowing they will act in the best interests of the business.

By following these principles, you can strike a balance between delegating responsibilities and maintaining control over critical aspects of your business. Remember that effective delegation is a skill that can be developed over time, and learning from both successes and failures will help you refine your approach.

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Mark Goulston

Dr. Goulston is the world's #1 listening coach and author of "Just Listen" which became the top book on listening in the world