Delegating is a key skill for leaders to acquire, but it can be elusive to so many. Many leaders were simply never taught how to delegate. They rose through the ranks by producing high-quality products on their own. They were promoted because they have the skillset and the institutional knowledge thanks to the time they spent doing the jobs their direct reports are now doing.
This makes it difficult to start delegating. The next biggest obstacle is changing their mindset towards delegation. Do any of these mindsets sound familiar?
It will take too long to train someone else and it is quicker to just finish the product on their own.
The work product has to be done in a specific way. Perhaps deep down, or not so deep down, they don’t trust the team to produce a solid outcome. A popular mantra is, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!”
They want to keep control over the end product.
They want to show their team members that they are “in it with them” and specific tasks aren’t beneath them.
We have now identified the reason(s) why we don’t delegate – the lack of proper training and a limiting mindset. For many people I coach, we have to peel back the onion a bit to get to the true root of not delegating. The surface reason is only the first step in shifting behavior. There are usually deeper reasons for the hesitation.
Do We Really Need to Delegate Tasks?
Now that we have explored why we don’t delegate, let’s look at why we should? In your role as a leader, you have a skill set or ability that is crucial for the organization’s success. It likely isn’t pulling the monthly reports. What are those skillsets or abilities? What do you need to be spending your time on to make sure your team and your organization are successful?
Write down your answers to that question.
When your time is spent doing things that are not critical to your team’s success, your people’s success, or your organization’s success, you are draining energy resources. That energy is needed for your most valuable contributions.
Is it Urgent?
Also, consider the longer-term strategic or even short-term initiatives that you aren’t getting to? Those would be things in your “Important but not urgent” quadrant. Oftentimes these activities take a backseat to requests or tasks that can be delegated. Those “Important but not urgent” activities usually pay strong dividends to your people and your organization. If you aren’t delegating other tasks, you likely won’t have the energy to spend on these important activities.
Without additional bandwidth, you also might not see potential challenges coming your team’s way. If you are too bogged down in the weeds, your perspective is looking downward, not upward, where it should be focused. You are a team leader. You need to have your head up so you are aware of potential challenges and are able to proactively address them when possible, not just reactively.
The final reason why you should delegate is the increased risk of burnout. You will always have more activities to do than the time and energy to complete them. Staying late at work, working through lunch, and working on the weekends to complete tasks that can be delegated puts you are at risk for burnout. This includes completing tasks that are uniquely yours to do because you didn’t delegate others.
How Do You Start Delegating?
If you haven’t done so already, write down the tasks and projects that you need to be spending your time on to make sure your team and organization are successful. Now consider the tasks and activities that are taking up your time and answer the following questions:
Are they on the list you wrote above? If not, put them on your “tasks to be delegated” list.
Can any part of those tasks be delegated (partially or fully)?
Which resources will be needed to take them on?
What will it take to make those resources successful?
How will you paint a clear picture of the outcome needed on these projects?
What expectations do I need to set?
One thing to remember is that delegating is not done simply because your plate is too full or you are too busy. The purpose is to develop the skills in your team which should make your team more effective overall. When possible, align the delegated tasks to team members looking to grow that skill set. At the very least, do not delegate a majority of the tasks to your best team member. While you will likely get a good short-term outcome, you risk burning out your top team member, breeding resentment within the group, or not developing the overall skills of your team.
It’s time to start delegating!
Yes, delegation can be difficult. Yes, you oftentimes could do the job faster or with better results. Believe it or not, a fresh perspective on a task may produce an outcome that is better than yours. In the end, though, you will be spending your time on the most valuable tasks. Your team will grow their skills. Your impact will be greater. Are you ready to start delegating? View our Coaching services and see how we can improve your delegation skills!