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Section 8. Learning From and Contributing to Constituents

Example: She gets things done! The art of delegation

The following piece is reprinted from The Neighborhood Network. Thanks go out to the organization for allowing its use here.

Emily Erdman is the mother of friends that I grew up with in my home town. Everyone knew her because she was active in her church, the school, and the community. People said, "When Emily is in charge, things get done!" Some said, "When you work with Emily, she does all the delegating, and you do all the work." Others responded, "Yes, but when Emily is our chair person, things get done. And frequently more things get done than when Emily is not involved." The people in my home town knew Emily's dominant leadership style. She is a delegator, and she does it well. She accomplishes things with and through the efforts of other people.

I was often one of those recruited by Emily. Maybe I was asked because I was around or because she and Mom are friends. Or maybe it was because I did what I agreed to do. I did the tasks because I was asked and because she never asked me anything unreasonable. I never thought much about it at the time, but Emily taught me a lot about delegation that has helped me – “Get things done!"

Emily began by defining what needed to be done, divided what needed to be done into manageable tasks, and identified several people who might be able to do each task. If the first person said no, she would have someone else in mind to call.

When she asked me to do something, she would say, "Dave, I need your help." and then explain what the project was, what she needed me to do, and the date that she needed it. I could always say no. She never made me feel guilty for doing that but made it clear that when she needed help in the future, she would call on me because I could get things done.

At first she asked me to do small tasks like helping clean up after a community dinner. It grew from there. As I learned more, she told me less and less about how to do what was needed and left that up to me. Sometimes I had to find others to help. One the last tasks that Emily asked me to do was to have 100 tables in the park for the barbecue at the annual Harvest Festival. I couldn't do it by myself, but I knew that each church in town had folding tables. I also had classmates who were members of each church that lived on farms. Farmers have pick up trucks. It was a breeze and I didn't have to lift a table. I had learned how to delegate from Emily.

Emily Erdman is in her 80's now. She doesn't chair as many projects as in the past. People in my home town frequently say, "You know, we need someone like Emily Erdman to chair this project. We need someone who will get things done." Fortunately, others learned delegation skills from Emily because there are people there to take her place. She delegated herself out of business. And "things are still getting done!"

David P. Olson