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The plant in this photo is dying, because of me, despite my best efforts. What does my dying plant have to do with leadership?

Leadership and Dying Plants | Cynthia Farrell | 110 West Group

In my executive coaching work, a consistent theme, including at the C-level, is struggling with delegation.

Maybe they’re not delegating, and/or unsuccessfully delegating.

Delegation frameworks are helpful. Willingness to do it essential. Resistance a common hurdle.

The oft-forgotten but all-important foundation of successful delegation?

Know your people.

As a leader, delegation is a great way to develop your people with stretch opportunities.

Stretch opportunities by their very nature are outside of one’s comfort zone. Yet it should be something that they can be successful in.

They won’t be successful if it’s something they truly aren’t good at or don’t enjoy.

Like me and plants. 🌿

I can’t keep plants alive. I even kill succulents. This is the latest on the verge of death.

Every once in a while, someone who doesn’t know me well gives me a plant.

Although well-intended by the giver, the plant strikes fear and anxiety in my heart.

I will try to keep it alive. I will follow instructions. I will ask for help.

I ultimately will fail and it will die and I’ll feel horrible and guilty because I failed.

Anyone who knows me knows not to give me a plant.

So imagine you’re a leader and you want to delegate.

Now imagine you haven’t made the time & effort to get to know the person you’re delegating to. You don’t know they truly aren’t good at what you’re about to ask them to do. Or that they deeply dislike it.

Delegating this task is setting them up for abysmal failure.

You, as their leader, are responsible to:

  1. Get to know your people, what they’re good at, what they’re not, what work they love, and what they dislike with the intensity of 1000 suns.
  2. Delegate accordingly, as much as possible.
  3. If you must delegate something that falls into the “I suck at/hate this” area, give them as much support as possible to increase the probability of success. Don’t be surprised when they struggle.

For me and my plant, that would mean providing me with a plant nanny. I expect the plant would die anyway, just from the anxious energy coming off of me.

The root (pun intended?) of the message is this:

  • Great leaders delegate, both to increase their own capacity and develop their people.
  • Great leaders delegate 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹 and 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘆 because they know their people, and delegate accordingly.


“I have so much time on my calendar now to do strategic work.” That’s a direct quote from a CEO coaching client after working on barriers to delegation in our sessions. Are you struggling to delegate and looking for more capacity? Let’s talk about how coaching can help.

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