Sylvia Klarer of Core International: “Effective delegation is a direct result of good organization design and skill development among managerial leaders”

Effective delegation is a direct result of good organization design and skill development among managerial leaders. Success as a manager begins with good organization design. When we do an analysis of organization designs, we find that approximately 60% of roles are not ideally designed to ensure success of both the managerial leader role and the […]

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Effective delegation is a direct result of good organization design and skill development among managerial leaders.

Success as a manager begins with good organization design. When we do an analysis of organization designs, we find that approximately 60% of roles are not ideally designed to ensure success of both the managerial leader role and the direct report roles. When there is a “gap” or a “jam up” in the level of work complexity between a managerial leader role and their direct report roles, we often find inefficiencies in the delegation of work.


As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sylvia Klarer.

With more than 20 years of corporate and consulting experience, Sylvia Klarer has worked in all major Human Resources areas including: employee engagement, strategy development, change management, organizational design, executive recruitment, total rewards, policy development and employment law, performance management, succession planning, learning and development. Sylvia has led the design and implementation of new processes, programs, systems, and structures in organization from numerous industries including personal services, automotive, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, education, software and business services. Her breadth of experience and creative approaches drive her to “win-win” solutions for her clients. Sylvia holds a Master in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Art degree in Anthropology from McMaster University.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started my post secondary studies in the sciences thinking that I would pursue a career in pharmacy. I excelled in the sciences and enjoyed the analysis and systems thinking that are critical to this type of study. So, when I decided to pursue a graduate degree in business it seemed natural that I would focus on Marketing and the analytics and strategic thinking involved in this type of work. During my first co-op work term at Ontario Hydro, I supported the Corporate Planning Division and happily spent my time analyzing hydro rates in Canada and the US. Interestingly, this first work term was instrumental in setting me on my career path in Human Resources.

During that first work term, I met a gentleman that would show me what a mentor can and should be and he opened the door for me to become passionate about the field of human resources. He offered me a second work term at Ontario Hydro but within the Human Resources Division and it was this experience that permanently changed the direction of my career path. I would eventually complete my Master in Business Administration, not in Marketing but in Human Resources and Labour Relations.

I encourage those early in their business careers to stay open to new fields of study and work possibilities and to embrace a lifelong commitment to learning. Inquisitive curiosity on many subjects will strengthen our knowledge and skills in our chosen fields but also open doors for our personal development and growth.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I do not view my career challenges as anything unusual or uncommon. I grew up in a lower income family with both parents that came to Canada as immigrants looking to improve their lot in life. I was fortunate to be able to have two role models that emphasized an exceptional work ethic and put a premium on education as a foundation to launch a successful career. Working multiple part time jobs and making sacrifices early in my career seemed easy in comparison to the sacrifices they made — my parental role models instilled in me a strong drive to succeed.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Early in my career I had the opportunity to work in a high performing and highly engaged team. Thank goodness they all had a sense of humour and fostered a culture of fun and camaraderie in the workplace. As the newest member of the team, I was asked to organize the birthday celebration for the head of the department. How hard could that be? Get a cake, book a meeting room, and get everyone to sign the birthday card.

Everything that could go wrong, did:

  • I double booked a meeting room.
  • I did not pre order a cake and so did an early morning pick up which because I was rushed, I forgot about allergies that needed to be considered.
  • I got the birthday age wrong.
  • Forgot the card completely.

What I learned was that every workplace interaction is important (especially when starting out), attention to details and pre-planning is critical to all work. I would never have prepared for a presentation so poorly and yet I missed the opportunity to impress my entire team and the boss. Thank goodness they all had a sense of humor. But the most important lesson I learned was that one should never put the age of the birthday person on the cake (or if you feel you have to put a year on the cake, err on the side of youth!)

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe that what makes our company stand out is that we are a group of experienced consultants that like to work with each other as a team and that we are focused on a single outcome — helping our clients structure their work in a way that supports their organizational growth and future success. We often hear from our clients that we help make complex design concepts easily understood and relevant to their strategic goals — be it growth, innovation, or operational excellence. We recently invested in some market research and what came back with confirmation from past clients that they share the perception that we are a professional and trustworthy group of consultants and that we offer an effective, principled approach to organization design. We deliver measurable results while providing tools for sustained growth. In the early days of COVID, we heard from one of our past clients that the organization design that we implemented the previous year allowed the organization to pivot and introduce new products in demand during the pandemic, permitting them to continue to employ their staff and maintain revenues and profits.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I have for many years advocated for colleagues (both in consulting and the corporate world) to fully “disconnect” when on vacation. We all need that time to recharge and reinvigorate our engagement levels. Be sure to set yourself up for success (don’t leave the planning of your vacation to the last minute!):

  • Identify a peer and/or successor that you and your boss trust to make good decisions in your absence
  • Make your expectations clear and known not only your “temporary acting” replacement, but your boss and your team and peers in other departments
  • Do not check work emails! This is critical, if you look first thing in the morning while on vacation you potentially could lose hours of precious vacation time responding to run of the mill emails
  • Plan the timing of your vacation to avoid critical periods of work (be it operational work cycles or project work)
  • If you must, set up a separate channel for emergency communications (personal cell or personal email); Limit the number of people with your emergency contact details!

Taking a “real’ vacation will have a huge impact on preventing burnout. But don’t forget to supplement this “time out” with other well established “burn out” prevention tools i.e., diet, exercise, meditation.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have had the good fortune to work with many generous professionals over the years. Early in my career I received generous support from one “high performing team” in particular. We were driven to succeed both as individuals and as a team. We shared lessons learned and honest feedback on a regular basis. I remember a specific project that I was leading and thought that I was on track to deliver on time and within budget. The success of this new program required behavior changes throughout the managerial leadership team and all employees. A member of my team overheard a group of employees discussing the project in the lunchroom and realized that they had misunderstood a key element of the change. That colleague immediately contacted me and shared not only the details of the lunchroom discussion but gave me clear feedback on what she thought I could improve on in order to manage the change more effectively in other departments. This peer not only wanted me to succeed by sharing her years of experience with the organization and in the field of HR, but she also showed me the power of private constructive feedback. I have tried to emulate this behavior in my interactions with my peers and direct reports but also when coaching managerial leaders. “Praise in public, offer constructive feedback in private”.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?

Delegating is a critical skill for all managerial leaders — front line supervisors, managers, directors, vice presidents, presidents, and CEOs. A foundational principle of an “effective managerial system” is that all managerial leaders are accountable for the outputs of the roles that report to them. These outputs are a direct result of the managerial leader’s ability to delegate work, assign tasks, and provide the resources needed for the direct report to be successful. Every task is carried out within certain limits including process and legal requirements, safety practices, budgets, and so on. Where they are important and not already known, the managerial leader should explain and define these limits for their direct reports. Organizations run best when there is clarity about what is expected and by when for all roles within the organization ie. for managerial leaders and their direct reports.

Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?

Effective delegation is a direct result of good organization design and skill development among managerial leaders.

Success as a manager begins with good organization design. When we do an analysis of organization designs, we find that approximately 60% of roles are not ideally designed to ensure success of both the managerial leader role and the direct report roles. When there is a “gap” or a “jam up” in the level of work complexity between a managerial leader role and their direct report roles, we often find inefficiencies in the delegation of work.

  • A gap between the work level of a managerial leader and their direct report role can lead to the manager not understanding the nature of the work of the direct report resulting in incomplete work instructions.
  • A jam up between the work of the managerial leader and the direct report can be understood as the two roles are competing for the same level of work complexity which can often be expressed as managerial micromanaging or lack of work delegation.

Finally, effective, conscious delegation of work is a process and as such it needs to be developed as a critical skill among managerial leaders. Too often “effective delegation” is abbreviated, overlooked, or presumed to just happen. We need to develop this skill explicitly through leadership training and when setting role accountabilities in the design of managerial leader roles and their direct reports.

In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?

We need to pivot back to fundamentals of good organization design and core training for managerial leaders. Interestingly enough, pivoting back to these two foundational supports for effective managerial leadership also aligns to much of the findings of the engagement industry to foster high employee engagement. Effective managerial training is a high driver of employee engagement levels. Let’s give our managerial leaders the tools they need to effectively manage their direct reports — this intuitively makes sense to me, especially if we are holding managers accountable for the outputs of their teams. This approach would be a win-win-win i.e. for the organization, the managers, the employees!

Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

A common situation when it comes to ineffective delegation of work can be seen in the following typical “day in the life” of a managerial leader delegating work to a direct report. On Monday morning a managerial leader asks a team member to prepare a report, and then leaves the office to attend an offsite all-day meeting. The direct report has other things to do on that Monday and so leaves the report request aside for the following day. The manager returns the next Tuesday, finds the report isn’t ready yet, and says something like “But I needed it for first thing this morning!”.

Let’s breakdown the requirements for effective delegation of work:

When assigning work, clear expectations are a key to high productivity and effective delegation. Clarifying expectations will be successful if you follow these steps:

1 . Delegate the task. Be clear on what the task is and explain the task purpose and its context.

In our story above, the manager could have asked for a cost benefit analysis report to satisfy senior management’s questions regarding a proposed new product, process or technology under consideration.

2. Quality. Define the expected quality of the task output.

Our manager could have added in the desire to see an estimation of profits in 3, 5, and 10 years or a request to follow the Finance teams new Cost Benefit template.

3. Quantity. Quantity of the output to be produced needs to be defined.

Our manager needs 8 copies of the report for each vice president in the Tuesday morning meeting.

4. Time. Clearly define when the output needs to be delivered (target completion time).

Our manager should have specified that he needed the report by 9:00 am the next morning to make edits and leave time to make the copies for the 10:00 am meeting.

5. Resources. Define staff, equipment, material, budget, authorities, and so on,
to be provided.

Our manager should have also explained that the business analyst in the Finance department was aware of his request and that she was available to answer questions, provide templates and financial reports as needed and/or requested by the direct report.

One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

This cliché highlights a fundamental misunderstanding of the key accountabilities and decision authorities of well-designed managerial leadership roles. We need to go back to fundamentals and support our managerial leaders in deepening their understanding of what is expected of their role as managerial leaders.

Key accountabilities of all people managers include:

  • Outputs of direct reports
  • Result or impact of direct reports’ behavior
  • Build and sustain an effective team capable of producing required outputs
  • Provide team with effective managerial leadership

Decision authorities include:

  • Veto unacceptable team members
  • Determine work and assign tasks
  • Deliver personal effectiveness appraisal and merit review
  • Initiate removal of direct reports from role (within due process)

Managerial leaders’ performance is assessed based on the outputs and effectiveness of their teams. Delegating effectively is key to delivering on this performance expectation. We need to support our managers with effective role design and managerial effectiveness training.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Development of critical thinking skills!

How can our readers further follow you online?

Readers can connect with us on our LinkedIn page here

They can also check out our website here or schedule a one-hour call with one of the Core Partners here.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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