A few years ago, Frank, a senior leader, asked if I could run a training program to teach his people how to delegate better. When I asked him what problem the program would solve, he shared his frustration.
Frank wanted his team to think together about where they were taking the company and how they were preparing it for growth. Instead, they were focused on the operations of the level below them – either doing the work or closely supervising the regional managers who reported to them.
Instead of looking outward at the horizon, thinking about what was happening in the marketplace, with their customer and vendors, and instead of thinking about how they would build their team, leaders spent their time looking downward, immersed in the details of work at the level below them.
It had become clear to Frank that this was happening at every level in the company. The regional managers were doing the work of the district managers. The district managers were doing the work of the store managers.
Was this simply an issue of skills? I wondered why, after working so hard to be recognized and promoted, would a leader continue to do the work of the level below them? There must be a good reason.
Frank and I came up with ten good reasons you, as a leader, might have for not wanting to delegate to your direct reports.
- It’s easier and faster to do the task yourself.
- They might not do it right.
- They don’t want additional responsibilities and it’s not fair to give them more.
- Your own accomplishments might be eclipsed by their success.
- You might be seen as dispensable.
- They might make mistakes that will affect your reputation.
- Your old job was more interesting and fun.
- You won’t be seen as the one doing the most work, working the hardest.
- It’s not clear what you’re supposed to do in your new role and it’s more comfortable to do what you already know how to do well.
- That’s how everyone acts. Your boss is micro-managing you.
After reviewing the list, Frank and I discussed what would be the best solution. These reasons are deeply rooted in people’s attitudes and the culture of the company. If indeed the issues were as pervasive as Frank believed, sending his people to a skills training program might not produce the results he desired.
Do you, or someone you know, find it difficult to delegate? Chances are there is a good reason. Is it one of these?