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The Enemies of Delegation

On a scale of 1 to 5, rate your satisfaction with your effective use of delegation (5 being excellent).

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t give yourself a 5. When I put a list of leadership skills in front of clients and prospects, invariably this one is called out as something they want to work on, and it’s usually the first one they name. This holds at all levels – it’s not just the new managers who want to improve their delegation skills. I’m not the least bit surprised that Harvard Business Review’s Who’s Got the Monkey article is one of their two best-selling reprints ever.

So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to dive into delegation. 

To improve your delegation skills, first, you need to step back and observe why you aren’t delegating now. There are several reasons that people don’t delegate tasks. In this post, we will review some of the most common enemies of delegation. In subsequent posts, we will explore how to address them.

I don’t want to overwhelm my employees.

This is probably the reason I encounter the most. Managers are concerned with overloading their staff. Then I conduct 360 interviews and their staff often says “My manager is so overloaded. They need to learn how to delegate.” How can you give yourself permission to delegate?

It will be faster if I just do it myself.

Another very common pitfall. As managers, we often were promoted out of the job our team is now doing, and we were promoted because we were good at it. Many managers start as a “player-coach” where they are expected to continue to do some of their old jobs as they also lead the team. How successful will you be as a leader if you continue to employ this strategy? How successful will your team be?

I don’t trust that they will do the job well.

Review my blog post on The Elements of Trust. Do you believe the employee lacks sincerity? Competency? Reliability? How can you partner with them to build your trust?

I don’t think they are ready to take this on yet.

It is easy to overthink this one, especially if we are attached to how we’ve done a job in the past. Can they take this on if you support their work through mentoring and coaching? What’s the risk of letting them take it on anyway?

I’m worried they won’t understand my expectations.

I really can’t wait to dive into this one and strategies for making an effective request.

I’m concerned I’ll be out of a job if I give this work away to someone else.

This one may be hard to admit to yourself. Just remember you must keep promoting yourself into your new job and letting go of the old. Do you feel overwhelmed? Then chances are you will still have plenty to do once you delegate.

This is a thankless task. I don’t want to make someone else do it.

Keep in mind that we all have different strengths. There are tasks you consider thankless that other people love doing. I talk to people who tell me they have an allergic reaction to spreadsheets, and I tell them “Let me do it!” I know from years of experience that poring over data in a spreadsheet and making sense of it gets me into a state of flow easily.

In the coming weeks, we will be unpacking some of these further. Let me know which ones resonate with you in the comments, and which enemies of delegation I’m missing!

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