Delegating is often one of the hardest things for a manager to do. You give away your authority to make decisions but are still responsible for the outcome if something goes wrong.
Often managers don’t delegate because they hold one or more of these beliefs. Do any sound familiar?
“If you want the job done right, you have to do it yourself.”
“They don’t know how, and it’s not my job to train them.”
“They don’t want extra responsibilities.”
“They’ve already got too much to do.”
“It’s my job to do the thinking. It’s their job to do the work.”
“They will get the recognition instead of me.”
“If they do too much, I might be seen as dispensable.”
“If they do it wrong, it will reflect badly on me.”
“They might make mistakes that will harm the company.”
Does it seem like the risk is too great?
12 Reasons Delegating Is Worth the Risk.
- You can manage your time better and increase your efficiency.
- You will stop being inundated with irrelevant details.
- You get out of the mode of going from crisis to crisis.
- You have more time to think strategically and plan for the future.
- You have more time to concentrate on the work that is really important.
- Your team has an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge and increase their effectiveness.
- You improve the quality of decisions because they are being made by those you have the most information and closer to the situation.
- You are seen as more effective because your team is more effective.
- You show your team that you have trust and confidence in them, which positively affects their attitudes, interpersonal relationships, and performance.
- You increase their commitment to the task, to the team and to the company.
- You create a pool of talent who can take over whenever needed.
- You are more likely to be promoted because it will be easier to fill your position.
Ready to delegate? Here’s how to minimize the risk.
Guidelines to Determine What to Delegate.
1. Have a discussion with your direct report about their view of their skills, interests, and current workload and take that into account. Allow them to have a say in determining what and when tasks are delegated to them.
2. Support their development by delegating activities that might be part of their future responsibilities.
3. Do not delegate performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, confidential tasks, tasks specifically assigned to you, and sensitive situations.
4. Delegate to the lowest level at which the task can be successfully accomplished. Do not bypass your direct report, but give him or her the authority to delegate the task.
Steps to Delegate Effectively.
1. Ensure expectations are clear.
Be specific, clear, and complete about the task, goals, responsibilities, constraints, what a good job looks like and how performance will be evaluated. Clarify at the beginning the amount and type of supervision you will provide and how the progress will be monitored.
2. Grant authority.
Grant the authority needed to do the job. Let all who will be affected know about the delegation.
3. Provide needed support and resources.
Provide all information that is available and relevant; pass on other information as it becomes available. Give public credit when they succeed, but deal with mistakes discretely.
4. Get out of the way.
Do not interfere or take the delegation back unless it is clear that corrective action is necessary. Do not supervise too closely. “Post-delegation hovering” is demoralizing and will interfere with their commitment and effectiveness.
5. Don’t accept “upward delegation.”
Make it a policy that if someone brings a problem to you, they must also bring proposed solutions. Don’t become the person who solves their problems or you will end up taking on their work.
6. Maintain accountability.
It should be clear that your direct report has the responsibility for seeing the job well done. But remember that the ultimate accountability remains with you.
7. Delegate consistently.
Make delegation a regular practice, not just when you are overloaded or when tasks are unpleasant.
Great post! Two things really stuck out to me. The first is point 12 on the reasons to delegate list. The thought of someone not being promoted because they make themselves irreplaceable is really interesting and definitely something to look out for. It got me thinking about becoming too good at a job for your own good. The second item is point 5 on the steps list. I find this is one of the most important aspects of leadership. It is vital to professional development to bring potential solutions along with an issues to a supervisor. To me, this is a clear indication of the abilities and personality of those you work with.
Indeed. Not getting promoted because you are irreplaceable happens more often than many people realize. Delegating supports your own career: it frees you up to spend time developing the skills and experience you will need for your own career path, and you gain credibility as a great manager. Requiring people to seek solutions is one of the most powerful development tools you have. Thanks for highlighting these important points, Josh.
I often tell the leaders in my classes, “I bet you know how to delegate. The question is, why aren’t you doing it?” Then we look at the delegation blocks, like the quotes you listed, and determine which ones are “reasons or rationalizations.” It is actually a fun exercise when the leaders realize what master rationalizers they are.
Reason vs rationalization – a great distinction. You remind me that good training is often about examining blocks, not simply building skills.
If you don’t delegate, take risks, trust your direct reports, you are – AT BEST – a good manager; a manager basically of the status quo. Change is absolutely something that must be considered. Quoting my favorite source, Albert Einstein: “Insanity – Doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.” And, “We can solve the problems of today using the same knowledge and skills used in their creation.”
What is absolutely needed is to be a leader of continually evolving efforts!!!
Indeed. When you’re only managing the status quo, you’re not going anywhere. You’re just trying to do your circles better.
Jesse Lyn, thank you for posting this article. Your article is likely the best summary of delegation I have read! Great work! I have subscribed to your blog.
Thank you very much, Greg. Looking forward to more connecting.
Jesse Lyn, thank you for a great list of ’12 reasons why delegating is worth the risk’. One point I would add is – a reduction in stress levels for the manager who delegates tasks to trusted team members, rather than bearing all the burden.
As to why managers find it difficult to delegate – what I hear most often when delivering management development courses is: ‘I don’t have time to delegate!’ No doubt the root cause of the problem derives from the underlying beliefs you mention at the beginning of your article.
Ah… the irony of “I don’t have time to delegate.” When you are only looking at the short-term, it can seem easier to just do it yourself, but it takes more time in the long-term and, as you point out, increases stress. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Margaret.
This not only works for business but also for home life. Think “children” as you reread this article. It is how you grow responsible adults and avoid the threat of being a helicopter parent. I remember one woman telling me she couldn’t let her teen do the wash because he forgot to separate the whites from the colors. My response was to let him/her do their own wash and just be quiet with the outcome. GRAY is a color. They will learn.
Great example. Most good leadership lessons apply to all aspects of our lives, not just work. Thanks for pointing that out.
How does one delegate in an organization where the staff is underpaid and the work load is already at an all time high?
That’s a tough situation, Paulette. It might be that you are delegating as much as you can already. But make sure you’re not micro-managing, which wastes everyone’s time, including your own. When determining what to delegate, take into consideration a) whether they have the skills to do the task, b) if they are motivated to do it, and c) whether they have the resources they need.
Thank you for helping with nailing down some determiners of delegation in the organizational structure we work in. I’m looking forward to learning more by following your blog!
Thanks, Paulette. So glad you find my blog helpful.