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Helping a CEO to delegate better

'Coach Kriengsak, I like the quote that you posted recently on Facebook when you wrote: 'We don't have enough time to delegate properly. But we have time to solve the problems that arose from misunderstanding during the delegation.' This is exactly the mistake I always make and I'd really like to talk about it with you today," Peter tells me.

"What do you want to achieve from our discussion today, Peter?"

"I want to learn how to be a better delegator."

"OK, could you tell me an example of a recent case?"

"Last week, I asked my chief people officer (CPO) to come up with a plan to promote better engagement among our top people. Because I was so busy, I didn't explain to him in much detail what my expectations were.

"This week, he came up with a proposal for a weekend outing. He wanted to bring our leadership team to a military boot camp. He said it would help people to engage better with each other.

"I was very disappointed, but I didn't show my frustration to him. In fact, I was frustrated with myself."

"Peter, was this an isolated case or part of a pattern?"

"This is just one example of a scenario that plays out with all my direct reports. I give a very short instruction, so half the time we end up having to sit down to clarify my expectations. It wastes time, mine and theirs."

"How often has this happened?"

"This has been happening since last year. In the first three years that I was CEO, we followed the procedures set down by our regional office. Last year, the regional office said it wanted to decentralise management. Since then, we've carried out several initiatives locally. The problem started from there."

"Peter, how do you want to see yourself?"

"I want to see myself spending more time on delegation instead of correcting the misunderstandings that have arisen from poor delegation."

"What's preventing you from doing that now?"

He says quietly, "Me."

"What made you say that?"

"Because I'm impatient. I want to get things done very fast."

"What pushes you to act that way?"

"I always say to myself that there's not enough time. I have to hurry."

"Where does this voice came from?"

He's silent again, and then he tells me: "It comes from my childhood experience. I was in boarding school for many years. Our school taught us to be efficient; everything we did there was measured by time. But what conditioned me the most was eating. I was a skinny guy and ate slowly. There was a big guy who bullied everyone including me. Whenever I ate slowly, he took away my food. Ever since then I've been a very fast eater."

I pause to let him reflect on those experiences. "Coach, I've been driven to be impatient because of my past," he says.

"Peter, what can you do with this awareness?"

"I have to let go the past. I'm not a child anymore. There's nobody who's going to take anything away from me."

"That's good. Now you have better self-awareness. How do you ensure that you won't go back to that impatient autopilot mode when you delegate work?"

"There are three steps I can take," he tells me. "Before delegating, I have to compose myself and tell myself to delegate properly in order to prevent misunderstanding. While I'm delegating, I have to be conscious not to go too fast. I have to remind myself that nobody is pushing me, that I am in control. After the delegation, I have to evaluate how well I did. Then, I can learn from each experience and modify my approach as needed."

"That's good, Peter. What about your delegation skills? How good are they?"

"I'm not sure. From your experience, what do other great CEOs do?"

"The great CEOs surround themselves with the right people first," I explain. "In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins writes that the right people are one of the key factors in success or failure.

"He lists the attributes of the right people as follows:

- They fit with the company's core values.

- They don't need to be tightly managed.

- They're accountable for their responsibility.

- They fulfil their commitments.

- They're passionate about the company and its work.

- When things go right they give credit to others, and the take the blame for themselves when things go wrong.

- "If you start with the right people, the rest is much easier. From my experience, great CEOs delegate work by:

- having a clear end in mind about the outcome;

- tailoring the delegation in accordance to each subordinate's individual style;

- checking for understanding prior to letting the subordinate leave;

- monitoring the outcome at an early stage and giving feedback to the performer;

- learning from each delegation and continuous improvement."

"Thank you, Coach. Let's follow up in our next session."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at