Many overweight books have been written on the art of delegation. When you de-lard these tomes so that a thigh gap materializes in their form, you get my one-page guide to the regret-less delegation. The entire scheme revolves about a dual focus: faith and reason.
Many people know what reason is but the nature of faith is known to only a measly host. This defect in knowledge accounts for the failure of multitudes to master the art of delegation. So here is the cure: the word faith, which is often used interchangeably with the word belief, is not mere belief but is a composite concept which encompasses belief, thought, will, speech, and action. To use the metaphor of the solar system, faith is that state you attain when you send your beliefs, thoughts, will, speech, and actions into orbit around a central goal. In a word, to have faith in something is to be consumed by it in all aspects of your being. So the word faith has two sides to it: there is faith the belief and then there is faith the state. It is faith the state that we are concerned with here.
Now that the definition of faith is out of the way, let’s get back to our assignment: the mastery of delegation. The ability to accomplish a task whatever its nature has both a faith component and a reason component. To have full ability to accomplish a task is to have both faith and reason. For the progress from a problem to a solution is achieved by the same means as the motion of a car from one point to another: there must be a steering mechanism to navigate around obstacles and there must be a propulsion mechanism to sustain movement. That is why in my book The Success Genome Unravelled I noted that reason steers a man but is faith alone that moves him. So the faculties of reason compose the steering mechanism during problem solving and the faculties of faith compose the propulsion mechanism. People with reason but no faith can see a way around a problem but cannot get themselves moving to cover the ground that must be covered between the problem and the solution; on the other hand, people possessed of great faith but without reason are always in flight but are incapable of making their motion meaningful since they lack the intellectual wherewithal by which to steer themselves away from a problem and towards a solution. Their approach to a solution follows a hit-or-miss strategy: they believe that if they keep moving and the solution itself keeps in constant motion, then somehow they will stumble upon it somewhere. In management this is not a satisfactory strategy because we aim to conserve our energies and resources by moving calculatedly.
So when it comes to delegation, the first thing is to know your staff. Familiarity will keep you posted on the proportions of faith and reason which compose their beings. As a general rule, men of great faith are almost always lacking in reason while men of great reason often have a pitiful lack of faith. So do not be too disappointed to find that most members of your staff are either one or the other, for that is the norm. What is important is to know where each person falls. Persons of great faith will then be suitable for those assignments where the injection of reason can be done periodically without causing harm to the project. You will then have to arrange for these periodic injections of reason in order to steer them towards desired outcomes. The points of intervention will generally be those junctures in the course of the project where important choices must be made. The situation is quite like that between a pilot and his auto-pilot: the pilot intervenes when choices must be made about direction and altitude; when these are set, he hands the plane to the auto-pilot.
When you have in your hands someone with great powers of reason but lacking in faith delegation becomes more difficult. This is because while reason is not needed at every step of a journey, faith is. Without faith you have paralysis. The man who has reason but who is lacking in faith may generate many ideas but will fail to implement them. So when you delegate responsibilities to such a man you need to keep them close to a person possessed of faith whose role it will be to constantly prod them into making choices and taking action.
Occasionally fate will bless you with a soul possessed of both faith and reason in potent proportions. To such types you may give extensive autonomy when you delegate duties to them. They have what it takes to cope. Unfortunately, whenever such gifted souls appear in your workplace you may not be able to delegate to them because it is likely that they will be your boss.
Now, I would have loved to extend this article to 200 pages, but this is really the gist of what you need to know.
(Author-poet Agona Apell is the author of The Success Genome Unravelled: Turning men from rot to rock)