Do you think red coat and white beard when you think of Santa? It wasn’t always like that, long ago Christmas deliveries were associated with green. 

I’ve been interviewing Santa recently; this article explains what happened  and 7 important lessons for delegation in your firm.

Why Santa wears red and delegation.

The 2 competing firms

Once upon a time two global logistics firms competed each Christmas. One with green branding, the other wore red.

Santa smiled, eyes twinkling, as he looked into the log fire and recalled the collapse of his green competitors.

Deadly rivals in the present delivery business, both worked flat out, to tight schedules to ensure client satisfaction. One firm kept failing its clients and disappeared from the market.

Getting the work done

Getting the elves to work hard was important to the MD’s of both firms. But the MD’s had different approaches to getting things done.

In the red firm everybody knew what they had to do, knew clearly what was expected of them and were allowed to get on with it. The MD spent time looking at the future of his firm.

In the green firm the MD spent his time issuing instructions and precisely detailing every task and then checking on them – constantly. The MD had no time for working on the business; he was too busy working in the business.

Things steadily got worse, the MD couldn’t keep up with the technology changes, he was too busy. He wouldn’t get the most technical of his elves to help, he insisted on giving precise details for every task (read the-extra-cost-you-build-into-your-business for another example). He couldn’t focus on the results of marketing programmes; he was too busy detailing each little part of the programme. He couldn’t personally look after all clients, but wouldn’t allow his elves to either.

They were losing business, his elves were unhappy and he was exhausted. Eventually he threw the towel in. The red firm employed most of the elves, continued to grow and you know the results today….

I asked Santa (MD- Red firm) what he thought were the most important rules of delegation. He said, if they can’t do it – it’s your fault! Then he gave me…

7 important tips for better delegation

  1. Ensure the big picture is clear: What do you want them to do, why and how does it fit into the overall scheme of things.
  2. Determine what you delegate: Decide which task(s) you want to delegate. Delegating is different from assigning an elf a task that is already a part of their job. Delegating gives someone else one of your tasks – while you maintain control and responsibility.
  3. Clearly define their responsibility: You determine the level of responsibility. After you’ve given them the information about the delegated task, ask her to tell you her understanding of both the task and goal. If the answers don’t match your expectations, discuss again.
  4. Other expectations: If there is a how to do, who to speak to, by when, etc – make it clear. What must be done exactly the same way and what is up to them? HINT: If you are specifying small details, you need to ask yourself if it’s needed; if it is needed, perhaps delegation isn’t the right leadership tool!
  5. Discuss authority: Define the authority given to them for the delegated task. Which decisions can they make independently and which require your approval. If you say “Do whatever it takes,” you may end up with a surprise. However, too-limited authority may stop them from completing it. Do they have a budget, a time limit, can they use other employees, and is this task more important than their normal role?
  6. Be sure they understand their authority: Have them repeat back their understanding of authority regarding the task. Resolve misunderstandings at the beginning.
  7. Check In and decision making: Agree with them when you’ll check progress and how. Maybe they’ll report back to you in a staged way as things go on. What decisions can they take and what should they ask you about? More experienced people get the same stages, but probably need less formal checking.

Read more of my Santa interviews: Click Santas-social-media-solution  or  global-logistics-failure-and-your-staff

Post Script

Now you may be thinking that it was a famous soft drinks brand that changed Santa’s branding, but be honest with yourself – isn’t management failure more likely?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access