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Stop Being the Little Red Hen – Delegate!

Posted on 15 May 2014

The Little Red Hen is an old Russian folk tale that was popularized by Little Golden Books in the 1940s.

Little Red hen

In the tale, the little red hen finds a grain of wheat and asks for help from the other farmyard animals to plant it, but none of them volunteer. At each stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance.

Finally, the hen has completed her task and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. She declines their help, stating that no one aided her in the preparation work. Thus, the hen eats it with her chicks leaving none for anyone else. The story teaches children the virtues of the work ethic work and personal initiative. The moral is that those who show no willingness to contribute to a product do not deserve to share it.

Are You a Little Red Hen?

Often, coalition coordinators complain that their workload is overwhelming. If you work on your own, no matter how hard you work, you can do only a limited amount. Additionally, if you’re good at your job, members expect even more from you. This can lead to pressure and work overload and can leave you stressed, unhappy, and feeling that you’re letting your coalition or your community down. To avoid being a little red hen and overcome this limitation, you must begin to delegate, or entrust tasks or responsibilities to others, many of who are volunteers.

Decide When and To Whom You Should Delegate

Delegation can feel like more hassle than it’s worth, but it ultimately will expand the amount of work that you can deliver. When you work on the tasks that have the highest priority for you, and others work on meaningful and challenging assignments, you will succeed. To determine when delegation is most appropriate, ask yourself (Mind Tools, 2014)

  1. Is this a task that someone else can do or is it critical that you do it yourself?delgate
  2. Does the task provide a growth opportunity and develop another’s skills?
  3. Is this a recurring task?
  4. Do you have the time to train, support, check progress, and rework if needed.

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then it’s worth delegating this task.

In deciding to whom tasks should be delegated, consider a person’s:

  1. Experience, knowledge and skills as they apply to the delegated task
  2. Level of independence, goals and interests as they align with the proposed task
  3. Current workload and whether delegating this task will affect other responsibilities

Delegate Effectively

Use the following principles to delegate successfully (Mind Tools, 2014):

  1. Emphasize results. Focus on what is accomplished, rather than how the work should be done. Your way is not necessarily the only or best way! Allow people to control their own methods and processes to build trust and success.
  2. Identify constraints and boundaries. Where are the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability?
  3. Include people in the delegation process. Empower them to decide what tasks are to be delegated to them and when.
  4. Match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority. Even though you can delegate some responsibility, you can’t delegate away ultimate accountability.
  5. Provide adequate support. Practice ongoing communication and monitoring, and provide resources and credit.
  6. Avoid “upward delegation.” If  a problem arises, don’t let the responsibility for the task shift back to you. Ask for possible solutions; don’t just provide answers.
  7. Build motivation and commitment. Discuss how success will impact financial rewards, future opportunities, informal recognition, and other desired benefits. Provide recognition where deserved.
  8. Establish and maintain control. Discuss a timeline and deadlines. Allow space for people to use their abilities while agreeing on a schedule of checkpoints for reviewing progress.

If you delegate well, you will build a strong, successful team and a coalition that is able to meet most demands. And you will no longer have to play the role of the little red hen!

Reference: Mind Tools. (2014). Successful Delgation. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_98.htm

Leading a Collaborative Effort: What Does It Take?

Posted on 08 May 2014

When you step up to lead a coalition, partnership or any collaborative effort, you may feel like you’ve crossed the border into another country – one with different values, priorities and ways of doing business. The leadership that is required here is very different because the leader is not in control of the group. Rather, he or she is responsible for guiding and coordinating the process by which the group chooses and carries out actions to accomplish its goals. It works well when community issues are complex and pervasive and when any individual or organization cannot change policies, systems and environments alone.

In their book Collaborative Leadership, Chrislip and Larson remind us that collaborative leaders lead a process not people. This process engages all community stakeholders in solving problems and making decisions. If done well, this process builds trust, openness and ownership. The solutions that arise from the collaborative process usually are more informed, based on evidence, innovative and more likely to work. As a result, community members become empowered and new leadership capacities are developed.

I’m sharing a photo here of a dynamic group of leaders of the Jenkins County Diabetes Coalition – their collaborative leadership effort has move this group on a pathway toward success in a very under resourced community.


Although the end result is worth it, collaborative leadership is not easy. It takes more time, and requires skills in dealing with conflict, turf issues, and resistance to change. Collaborative leaders must leave their “egos at the door” and move in the direction that the group desires. Collaborative leaders must be good facilitators, motivators and innovators.

If you are a credible, realistic and flexible leader, then you may be well suited to lead a collaborative effort. Above all, you must be committed to work for the common good – and isn’t that where collaboration starts?