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On delegation: a Solution Focused approach


When, during a recent Ilfaro leadership training in Berlin, the team of German managers came back from lunch, little did they expect to be denied access to the workshop room.


On the agenda was a training module on delegation: rapid growth and changing structures in their organization meant these managers needed to enhance their delegation skills.


They had expected to sit down, to digest their lunch and to be told the why’s and how’s of delegation. But instead they found themselves being paired up, with one person blindfolded and the other one leading her through a previously prepared obstacle course in the (now accessible) room.


Responsibilities were shared: 

  • During the first round, the leaders were to give as much information as possible to their partners, explaining the obstacle course and guiding them physically. 
  • During the second round, the blind-folded persons were to ask all the questions they needed to go ahead, but had to do the obstacle course without any physical guidance and without any other input from their leaders than the answers to the questions they asked. 
  • The third round saw them finally doing the obstacle course on their own, the leaders being only present to save them from bumping into walls or furniture.


Amidst of a lot of laughter, some head-scratching and occasional swearing, this short, seemingly playful exercise drew a wealth of realizations for all participants: about their personal style in leading, directing and thus in delegation, how they were dealing with explications they didn’t understand, their assumptions about what is « obvious », their capacity to give and retrieve precise information, how and if they were analyzing the available information, and the challenges of jumping in at the right moment resp. letting the other person find her own way.


We suggested a few strategic SF questions to structure their realizations:


  • What was helpful?
  • What would have made things easier?
  • What will I do different/more of next time?
  • What have I learned for my future delegation? 


Energized by their previous experience “in the flesh”, the participants provided a rich collection of material by answering these simple Solution Focus questions. 


In the light of their realizations and the material they had just created, we then invited them to remember specific experiences of successful delegation. The room became animated as they shared their success stories and analyzed the critical success factors.


Again we provided Solution Focus questions:


  • Why did they decide to delegate this way?
  • How did they do it?
  • What were the critical success factors?
  • What would you do even more of next time?
  • What would they change? What were they hoping to be different then?


The practical approach combined with the Solution Focus guidance to determine their own stance on delegation provided maximum learning and assimilating in a very short time. Participants left confident as for their future delegations and also inspired to by the SF approach they had experienced during the two days training and gave us clear feedback about how they wanted to integrate SF in their leadership from now on! 


Rima Nouri