Delegating is an amazing skill which all leaders need to have. It allows you to focus on the important jobs, lets your team make decisions without checking in with you and ultimately gives them more autonomy.
But is there a point where giving your team too much responsibility will inevitably result in failure?
Responsibility or “positions of power”, is ultimately there to give us someone to blame, someone to pass the buck to. When a sales team performs poorly, the head of the team (the responsible one) is held accountable; then they pass the repercussions or address the shortcomings to their team or individuals.
But where we have too many people “in charge”, responsible for a task, department, or project, that line becomes blurry. Not just for their superiors but between each other and those below them.
When something goes awry, we often hear “Who is in charge here?!” and we watch the fingers point to, ideally, 1 person. But when we have too many chefs in the kitchen the fingers are all pointing to different people in the room. In actuality, the chefs are all pointing at each other because they themselves are unclear as to who is in charge for the element of failure.
We see examples of this in school children when they do group projects. The responsibility falls on them all, yet inevitably someone doesn’t pull their weight, an aspect is overlooked and then either the group fails, or they have to all rush last minute to solve this problem.
This happen in business all the time. We see large group projects with unclear roles and responsibilities, when then leads them to fail at completing tasks promptly and inevitably it becomes clear that they all thought it was someone else’s job.
“Oh well I thought you were cutting the cards because you were printing them?!” is an example of two people unsure about their roles and responsibility at a task.
This is when too much responsibility and delegation can come back to bite the leader on the butt. Hierarchy gives us all clear channels of communication and responsibility (or blame) when it comes to performance outcomes.
When there is too much unclear responsibility and hierarchy within a team, individuals are more likely to assume someone else is responsible and that someone else will pick up that slack. When everyone is equal with responsibility there is no one to be accountable to.
“Where everyone is responsible, no one is responsible”
As a leader, we need to ensure when we delegate, we have clearly communicated roles and responsibilities to each person. Where responsibilities overlap, we need to ensure both parties are communicating effetely and ideally have outlined where they overlap and who will be responsible or agree to meet and discuss immediately to take action.
Ideally our teams are all good people who will instinctively know who is doing what and when, but that isn’t realistic. There are too many moving parts which require us as leaders to keep an overwatch of it all.
This does not mean micromanage, but ensure that we as the leader, have clearly outlines roles, responsibilities, and parameters. Without this, no one is responsible as no one understands where they are responsible.
When there is uncertainty, wiggle room, no clear hierarchy you can bet the team WILL stumble.