It is a fine line to walk between delegation and abdication – a common challenge when managing a team of employees. But I have found it to be an even bigger challenge when managing vendors, especially vendors hired for subject matter expertise.

Let me start by explaining what I mean by abdication versus delegation, and how they apply.

Delegation, if well thought through follows a process where, priorities are clearly set, and agreed upon, with a feedback loop that closes things out and holds everyone accountable. Everyone in the process has clear line of sight to what needs to be done, tracks that it was done, and what was the outcome. The modern way successful companies thrive!

Abdication on the other hand, it normally is, “here, you do it” often without much thought, foresight, accountability, or feedback loop. In a lot of entrepreneurial companies, it comes from a frustrated and exhausted entrepreneur just looking to get something, ANYTHING, off of their plate before they lose their mind. Then often they get frustrated when things go poorly (due to their utter lack of direction) and they take the tasks back and claim, “I guess if I want it done right I have to do it myself!” Sound familiar? It is literally a tale as old as time in business.

But where it gets tricky, and I am speaking of recent personal experience, is when managing a subject matter expert vendor. I have felt this pain, both personally and in business, and am just now realizing I have been a ‘vendor abdicator‘!!!

A good example, and the reason I just thought about this idea in a new way, is from my personal life. I currently have multiple properties listed for sale. I have been frustrated with the results, and with realtors in general. It just dawned on me today, as I bemoaned one of them, that I have done the same thing as always, abdicated my responsibility to the subject matter expert. We set goals, and expectations, to start, but then never closed the loop. I was so happy to have it out of my hands, and in the hands of the expert, that I just assumed the process would manage itself, and magically a check would show up one day after a successful sale. NOPE. I failed to close the loop, as usual, and now I am frustrated with the results. But if I am being honest with myself it is my fault. I abdicated my responsibility.

I can hear all the naysaying out there and yes if you hire an expert you expect their expertise is good enough, and they shouldn’t need managed. But it is just not the case. Maybe once or twice it works. But seriously how many times do you hear:

My construction project came in on time and under budget!

My realtors were perfect and I didn’t lift a finger!

Not often (I won’t say never, but it is rare). So why not stack the deck?

Get in the routine of looking to vendors as subject matter experts that you delegate tasks to with clear objectives, definitions of success, and a feedback loop to know if it is working or not working.

I know I will be making the shift ASAP!


Founder of the align5 Companies,  CEO of Scaling Up Coaches, and Serial Entrepreneur

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