Wednesday, May 25, 2011


“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” - George S Patton

I worked at Florida State University for three years as an academic advisor for student-athletes. During that time, I had the privilege of working with Coach Bobby Bowden and the Seminole football team. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences that I have ever gone through in my life.

The insight that I gained about leadership during this time was powerful. Although Coach Bowden is well-documented as a leader, one of the coaches that I grew to admire and respect was Kevin Steele. He was the co-defensive coordinator and I worked closely with him on the academic progress of the football team.

I learned many lessons from Coach Steele, but one of the best had to do with delegation. We were having a conversation one day just after I had read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. I referenced this great book for leaders in a previous post, but one of the “big ideas” in Collins’ book revolves around getting the “right” people on the bus, first, and then putting them in the “right” seat. The good to great organizations focused on finding the right people and then putting them in a position to best help the organization.

Coach Steele related to me how to delegate and it still resonates with me today. In fact, I still carry in my wallet the paper where Coach Steele drew a diagram of this delegation idea.

In a nutshell, the idea is this:
1. Share with the person the starting point of the project.

2. Share your two or three highest values/visions for this project.

3. Share with the person the goal of the project (what this project should accomplish)

4. Get out of the way, and allow the person the creativity to go from the vision to the outcome in any manner they choose.

Coach Steele explained to me that “getting out of the way” is the hard part. The natural instinct is for leaders to mandate the step-by-step process to complete a task. But, to allow for creativity and growth in an organization, the leader must be willing to let go of the process. Oftentimes, the end result will be even better than the leader imagined.

This is a powerful lesson in delegation.

Do you “get out of the way” once you delegate? If you have the “right” people on the bus and you provide direction, you can trust them to deliver a dynamic outcome.

Please post comments below.


tania palermo said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks!

Cindy said...

I appreciate this post and need to learn how to apply it more. Coach Bowden was in Columbia a few weeks ago and I was fortunate enough to hear his remarks at an FCA event. Really neat stories...great heart.
Thanks for sharing the delegation basics.

Jason said...

Tania & Cindy,
Thank you for the comments. Coach Bowden is a great man!