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  • Writer's pictureBob Prentice


Years and years ago, when I was an employee in a business, I had a boss who, from my perspective, was quite mean. It seems my old boss would just dump on me all the work he did not like to do so he could run off and go play golf. My boss was a man who liked to use the word "delegation" quite a bit, as if it were a good thing, but I always thought he was being quite unfair.

As I rose through the ranks over the years and found myself in various management positions I discovered that I, too, could delegate chores, tasks, and jobs to my employees. Following the example of my previous boss, I delegated the tasks that I disliked the most to others, and then I would go play. Well, for some reason this concept did not work well for me at all. My employees would whine and rebel, and some of them even quit, before I realized that this delegation thing just wasn't working for me because I was doing it all wrong. (The school of hard knocks is such a good teacher.)

Over time I learned to understand and appreciate some of the differences between a manager and a leader. For instance, a manager usually delegates, while a leader will release an opportunity. On the surface, it may seem that they are one in the same, but there is a huge difference here. Let me explain.

A leader takes one of his or her most favorite jobs and finds an employee, who when given that task, will see it as an opportunity for personal and professional growth and success, and a way to become more of an asset to the company, and be excited to take on the job.

In releasing the opportunity, an excellent leader will clarify the expectations, establish boundaries, and ask for a plan of action from the employee. Then a leader, if he is smart, will step back and allow the employee to establish their own methods, giving them some room to make mistakes and even fail, having faith that they will ultimately succeed in getting the job done. (Remember that success often comes from failure!)

A wise leader will then review with the employee what was learned, make the appropriate shifts and step back again and let the employee ultimately own that responsibility.

Leaders, learning to release opportunities to others is a process, whereby everyone in the company can ultimately win. As the skill level and confidence of your employees grow, and they have greater job satisfaction, the result is that they become happier as individuals and increasingly more valuable to you and your company. Meanwhile, you, as their leader, will have less stress and more time to focus on your own vision, plans, responsibilities and priorities.

I challenge you to think now of the most favorite thing that you do in your job. Now identify an employee to whom you can release an opportunity that will result in growth and success for them, for you, and for your entire company. Down the road a ways, I'd love to hear from you how your decision to release an opportunity has made you a better leader and benefited your employees.

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