Friday, May 25, 2018

How do you get better at delegation?

...Mueller was a star in his Officer Candidate School training class. “He was a cut above,” recalls Phil Kellogg, who had followed one of his fraternity brothers into the Marines after graduating from the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico. Kellogg, who went through training with Mueller, remembers Mueller racing another candidate on an obstacle course—and losing. It’s the only time he can remember Mueller being bested. “He was a natural athlete and natural student,” Kellogg says. “I don’t think he had a hard day at OCS, to be honest.”  
There was, it turned out, only one thing he was bad at—and it was a failing that would become familiar to legions of his subordinates in the decades to come: He received a D in delegation...
I would love to know what it takes to get an "A" in delegation in Officer Candidate School. It seems to me that delegation is really knowing about what your team's strengths are, and knowing which items the leader of an organization needs to focus on, and getting follow-through from your team. Not to get too technical, but that's really hard.

Readers, have you seen people who are good at delegation in your time in academia or industry? Or have you seen mostly people like Robert Mueller? How do you get better? 


  1. Ive seen plenty of advisors in academia delegate things for grad students and post-docs to do, but IMO it is because they are too lazy or irresponsible to do it themselves.

  2. The main failing in delegation is not the act, it is the follow-through in my opinion, at least in academia.

    You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.

    All too often PIs, advisors, administrators will delegate, but never actually follow-up to make sure the task delegated was accomplished.

  3. How to delegate

    When fencing stolen goods, you need a guy
    And you pay him enough to also find a guy
    To take the fall to save you all

  4. The not following-up noted above was something I saw a lot too.

    The other pathology I saw a lot was ineffective instruction, i.e.:not answering, what does successful completion look like? It is too easy to assume things, that there is a common understanding that is not there. But you don't want to be condescending either.

    Throw in any tendencies towards perfectionism or control freakishness, and there is a perfect recipe for ineffective delegation.