CEO to CEO: Delegating and Staff ROI

Your fellow CEOs discuss the hardest things about delegating and measuring staff ROI.

What is the hardest thing about delegating?


I view delegating as being akin to selling a business—once you sell, it's none of your business how things are run. In the same manner, if you are truly delegating a responsibility, it is no longer up to you how it gets done. Giving people the freedom to do the delegated task differently than you might have is probably the most difficult part of delegating.

—Alan Sparkman, CAE, executive director, Tennessee Concrete Association, Nashville, Tennessee. Email: [email protected]

The hardest things about delegating are communicating exactly what the task parameters and expectations are and relinquishing control. Since we are limited by how many hours there are in a day and our own areas of expertise and competence, it behooves us as CEOs to delegate tasks to others who may have more time to attend to the task at hand or greater expertise in the area. In addition, part of our role as an association leader is to provide opportunities for professional growth of other team members. By delegating work to others, we enable them to increase their competencies and build trust in their capabilities.

—Dale Singer, executive director, Renal Physicians Association, Rockville, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

First, there is the nagging feeling that perhaps my instructions might not have been clear and the end product may not be what I need or want. Therefore, I work hard at making sure my staff understands not only what product I might need, but how it also fits into our overall success. Being the CEO sometimes means that we have to delegate the "fun" stuff, the creative, hands-on, high-touch work that gives you the deepest interaction with your members and thought leaders in your field. Delegating means I am at least one step away from what drew me to the work in my field in the first place. I am very lucky to have a competent, bright, conscientious staff and don't often have to worry about delegated assignments.

—Stephanie McGencey, executive director, Grantmakers for Children, Youth & Families, Silver Spring, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

While delegating is essential to effective operations and capacity building, it can be challenging on several levels—from deciding what can be appropriately delegated to following through. I like the phrase "delegate, don't abdicate." It's important to give useful guidance to ensure that the outcomes and boundaries are understood. It's also important to encourage responsible progress-reporting practices and make it clear that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. This takes preparation, and each instance provides important learning that can lead to more confident and effective delegation, better talent utilization, and growth.

—Joel D. Albizo, CAE, executive director, Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, Fairfax, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

How does your organization measure staff ROI?

As we are a small staff, the only financial measurement we use is performance as compared to budgeted expectations.

—Gregg B. Balko, CAE, executive director, Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineers, Covina, California. Email: [email protected]

We are a small staff of just two, so measuring such things is often fairly easy. I almost don't have to do annual evaluations, although I do. Since our major source of income is still dues, the only real ROI measurement is membership, and in this economy that is sometimes unfair. My main measurement is currently membership retention, which is holding its own. When it comes to things like training, it sometimes is a while before you see any ROI, but that does not lessen the need for the training. We almost never have a bad result from training.

—Bob Benedict, CAE, executive director, Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada. Email: [email protected]

In the performance review, we look at results and what it took to achieve those results. I follow Peter Drucker's advice that you pay people for results, not effort. If the investment that we make on behalf of an employee isn't producing an acceptable level of return in terms of concrete results, we have a little problem! It is also important to note that results don't always have to be expressed in financial or quantifiable terms. If a staff member is demonstrating superior customer service and is generating significant good will within the membership, we recognize that as well.

—Nelson Fabian, executive director/CEO, National Environmental Health Association, Denver, Colorado. Email: [email protected]

We measure staff/associate ROI in three significant areas. Results: Do they  achieve their individual and corporate goals? Do they adhere to and advance our company's best practices? Opportunities: Do they seek to advance both the company's career as well as their own? Do they take advantage of professional-development initiatives in their sphere of influence? Innovation:

Despite their hectic work schedule, do associates seek out ways to improve internal operating systems and procedures? Do they bring to the table creative ideas to address ways to better serve the client and communicate those ideas with their peers in house?

Everyone has a different interpretation of how to measure staff ROI. By adhering to these three words, it allows us to simply and effectively measure the most valuable unlisted asset we have on our balance sheet, our people.

—G.A. Taylor Fernley, president/CEO, Fernley & Fernley. Inc., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Email: [email protected]

CEO to CEO: When Members Dissent

In this month's CEO to CEO, Teresa Evans-Hunter, CAE, MBA, executive director of National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics, shares her thoughts on what to do when a member's opinion clashes with the staff's opinion.