Effective Delegation: Closed Doors Lead to Open Ones

As we begin our series on the theme for the year, “Open the Door”, we realized it was important to also consider that in order to open doors, you also need to know how to close them.  The first step in effective delegation is to identify where closing a door for one person or organization is opening one for another. 

As we sat around a table brainstorming our 2024 theme at our annual company retreat, we realized we were all in somewhat of a state of transition and so were many of our clients.  

We often work with people, organizations, and communities that are in a place of “what gotcha there, won’t getcha here,” and we help them make the necessary steps to move to the next level of success.  Whether it is coaching a middle manager to make the transition to an executive, working on organizational processes and culture to transition a company from a small one to a larger one, or helping a community understand things like wage rates and labor participation and how that is impacting their workforce landscape, we are often walking alongside people in the middle of a paradigm shift.  And oftentimes we have to remind them, you are going to have to say no to something to say yes to something else.  This is where growth lives.

And so are we as a business and as individual team members- working to embrace growth by opening some doors and closing others.  Each of us are masters and some things, novices at others, energized by some tasks and drained by others.  Seasons come and seasons go, and as a team we sat at the retreat and realized some specific plans needed to be put in place in order to do so. 

Delegation has to be intentional for everyone involved in order for it to work successfully, so we embarked on an exercise where we worked to get intentional with our transitions and delegation plans. If you or your organization is in a season of transition, here are steps to think through closing doors and opening others: 

  1. List all of your service offerings up on the wall (literally).  
  2. Have everyone identify the areas they feel fully skilled at doing, the areas where they want to grow, and the areas of work they would like to divest in doing. 
  3. Discuss things you aren’t offering that need to be offered and how you will go defining and executing them. For example, we’ve realized that we have been called upon to do one thing for clients that then turns fully into another.  We are calling this something along the lines of “Talent Development/Workforce Strategy” and we are taking the first half of this year to be able to fully articulate what this means and market it. 
  4. Identify a team leader for each line of business.  This is ideally someone who is both fully skilled at the area and also energized by doing it and teaching it to others or is drained by doing it and wants to offload it but is interested in teaching it to others. 
  5. Give the team leader the full reign to execute the line of business and equip others to get it done.  Identify a timeline for doing so.  Is it going to take three months, a year, etc. to allow enough time for the person(s) to open the door to the task so another person(s) can close the door to it?
  6. Capture the plan in a document or spreadsheet where you will remember who is doing what and can track progress.
  7. Use the document you created to check back in regularly on the transition of the skills from one door open to one door closed. 

When we did this a​ctivity on our retreat, we identified a lot of opportunities for us all to learn from one another.  We identified ways to energize ourselves around work and transition things where people were fatigued or bored by certain types of work.  This doesn’t mean that we all don’t have to continue to do “laundry” as we call it- stuff no one really wants to do- to keep the business running and our clients happy, but it does mean that we are being intentional about opening doors and closing them, all for the sake of both individual and organizational growth. 

How do you know when to delegate?  Do you have a process for doing so with intention? What are you looking forward to closing the door on in order to grow? 


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Mary Ila Ward