Delegate Without Fear

I would like to share a past event about delegation. To protect the privacy of the people being mentioned, all the personal info has been removed and modified, but it shouldn’t compromise the integrity of the story.

Not too long ago, my friend who is a venture capitalist just put some money into a startup which is a one-man band. My friend called me up and asked if there is anything I can help out.

After talking with the founder in a few different occasions, I decided to accept both the founder and my friend’s invitation. My objective is simple, help out the founder to build a core team.

Time is your best friend when you want to know a person really well. As I tapped into my network and started recruiting for the startup, I became aware that the founder is quite a control freak. Well, actually it is okay as long as the founder is willing to delegate, to let the new hires to spread their wings and take care of what they are assigned to do.

However, the story doesn’t go like that..

One day, when I got to the office, I heard the founder was yelling at one of the newly hired employees.

The conversation, as far as I can recall, is somewhat like this:

“Bob! You have no authority to add this feature into the product. Who do you think you are? You need to ask for my permission before putting whatever you feel like to the product specification!”

The picture was not pretty since the founder was yelling at Bob in front of the whole team of about 5 people. And that’s embarrassing enough for Bob to feel very uncomfortable and sorry.

Taking emotion aside, the feature Bob came up with actually was ingenious and may help to instantly drive user adoption.

So shortly after the founder cooled down, I asked the founder if he had time to chat privately. I explained to him that just like most of the entrepreneurs, it’s great to be passionate about the product, but learning to delegate is the key to win as a team.

I asked the founder to take Bob for a drink and get to know each other better, since it’s a very small team anyway, there is no point to carry on the bad feeling in the days to come.

The founder is a very smart guy, and I am fairly sure he got my point. Unfortunately, ego got the better of him and he was not able to put it into action after all.

Long story short, Bob left the company soon after this event. And I didn’t stay there for too long either as I figured out there was very little value I can add in such a restrictive environment.

As a manager, we should not be afraid of our employees making mistake, nor punishing them as long as their motivation behind is for the good of the company.

Meanwhile, there is no point of yelling at anyone or throwing temper around since it is not going to do anyone any good. By escalating the matter, team members will lose the courage to go beyond their call of duty.

Even worse, employees may become risk-averse, which eventually kills innovation. For the managers out there, let’s delegate with courage and create a happy workplace for our fellow teammates!


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  1. First Reaction When Things Go Wrong
  2. Are You Dying to Work Every Morning?