Delegation is hard because it sometimes feels like it’s more work than it’s worth. I’ve heard leaders offer a variety of reasons to resist delegating work like:
- I can do the work better than anyone else can do it.
- It takes as long (or longer) to explain the work that I need to be done as it does for me to just do it myself.
- It feels too risky to delegate because I don’t have control anymore.
- I won’t get the credit for the work if I have someone else do it.
- I am not confident in anyone else doing the work as good as it needs to be done.
- My team has enough work to do already without me adding more to their plate.
Over the past decade, I have coached or worked with many leaders who have been effective at delegating and many who have failed. For those leaders who have failed, the person accepting the work often fails to meet expectations.
Over the years, I have collected many reasons that delegation fails. Among the reasons:
- There is a misunderstanding about what needs to be done because what was being delegated was not clearly communicated.
- The person doing the work has a lack of skill or training to complete the work.
- The person doing the work has a lack of interest in the work or in doing the work.
- Why the work is being done is not clear to the worker.
- There are other “higher” priorities or perceived higher priorities by the person doing the work.
- The person delegating the work believes there is a different urgency than the person doing the work.
- There is an unclear deadline or there no deadline established to complete the work.
- Only a portion of the work is delegated. Either the person delegating the work retains a part of the work or part of the work is delegated to someone else but it isn’t clear how is doing what.
- There is an untold disrespect for the leader. No matter what the leader does, it is going to be difficult for the person accepting the work to remain self-motivated.
- There is a risk-averse culture in the workplace and delegating work to someone else is simply too risky.
- There is an unwavering requirement that the work is completed to perfection.
So let’s be clear what we are talking about when we use the word Delegation. The way I define delegation is giving authority to someone else to complete a task for which you are responsible. Work that needs to be done has two parts to the equation: Responsibility + Authority.
Delegation is giving authority to someone else to complete a task for which you are responsible.
But before you delegate, make sure you are clear about why you are delegating. Reasons to delegate:
- You’re Aren’t Superman:
You acknowledge that I can’t do it all. There will always be more than enough work to do and what you can’t get done may be a candidate for delegation. Delegating the right things will free you up to take on higher priorities that have a greater impact.
- There is a Better Way:
Many times delegating work provides an opportunity find a better way to accomplish the work. Giving the work to someone else gives the work another mind to think creatively about how to accomplish the result. Stimulating creativity feeds innovation and builds initiative.
- Someone Else Can Do It Better:
Sometimes you are not the best person to do the work. There may be someone else who has more skills than you to complete the work or while the work is a weakness for you, it can be a strength for someone else.
- Increase Trust:
Leaders who effectively delegate increases trust in the organization because others see that the leader knows that they can’t do everything. The delegation also creates transparency, builds morale, and increases motivation when the leader acknowledges that they need help.
- Develop Others:
Strategic delegation by the leader provides an opportunity for the leader to develop new skills in others. Knowing developmental skill needs and then delegating work to that person to develop those skills helps them achieve their goals.
Catch yourself resisting delegation. Ask yourself if the reason that you aren’t delegating is legitimate or an excuse. You need to delegate, ask how can I avoid some of the common reasons delegation fails.
What are some ways delegation can help you, the people you work with, and/or your organization to be more effective?