To Delegate or Not to Delegate?

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, because it has both burned and surprised me so many times I’ve lost count. What am I talking about? Delegation. Deciding to delegate a task or take it on yourself is a common question leaders and managers face daily. There are pros and cons to both, and making the right decision can sometimes feel impossible! Here are some of the common reasons people choose not to delegate, and how to overcome them.

Why People Don’t Delegate

  • Not Enough Time
    One of the number one reasons people don’t delegate is because they’re too busy! Many leaders fall into the trap of not delegating simply because they don’t have time to explain the task or they don’t have time to teach the skills necessary for their employee to complete the task. It’s a bit of a paradoxical situation. It may take you less time to complete the task but what about the next time?
  • Losing Control
    Delegation can sometimes feel as you’re giving up control (Hint – because you are). Allowing someone else to complete a task you’re ultimately responsible for can be nerve racking. What if they don’t do a good job? It’s important to keep the lines of communication open when delegating to check up on progress and address any issues.
  • Letting Someone Else Take Credit
    Learning to build a successful team and share the credit can be tough. While you may not directly get the credit, managing a strong successful team reflects well on the manager. It’s just as rewarding seeing your team succeed as it is getting praise for your own work.
  • You Think You’re the Best
    You may think you are the only one who can complete the job, it’s okay, I’ve thought it too. Flying solo can be great, but it’s tiring. If you don’t have confidence in your team, learn! Start small, and work them up to the bigger projects. Don’t burn yourself out doing work others can easily accomplish!
  • Delegate Out of a Job
    One of the most important rules of success is proving your worth. The moment you become expendable, say goodbye. Some people resist delegation because they believe they may delegate themselves out of a job, but you could very well delegate yourself into a promotion or free your schedule to take on more challenging projects.

Effective Delegation

  • Choose Tasks Wisely
    Choose what tasks you are willing to delegate. As a leader, your time should be spent on the tasks which are critical to the success of your organization. Delegate the things you cannot do, or require skills beyond your scope.
  • Choose Quality Workers
    Pick the best person to delegate to. It’s easy to assign tasks to the least busy people, but are they the right fit? Instead pick the person who is most qualified. Get to know your team, their traits, work style, listen and learn.
  • Learn to Trust
    You must always trust the person whom you delegate to. Not everyone is going to complete the task the same way or produce the same results. It’s important to trust they will complete the task and allow them to complete it their way. It can’t always be your way or the highway.
  • Be Explicit
    Give clear instructions. Explain in detail, but don’t bore them to death. Lay out your goals, and the tasks at hand. Follow up with deadlines and milestones. Ask pointed questions to gauge understanding.
  • Give Credit
    Give public credit and be proud of your team. As the leader it’s easy to accept all the glory, especially when things are going well. Learning to appropriately acknowledge is a hard skill, but one of the most important to being a great leader.
  • Delegate responsibility
    Anyone can complete a task, but a great delegator takes the time to pass along authority and responsibility, not mindless tasks. Failing to delegate responsibility will result in the work coming back to you and ultimately building a team of mindless drones! People need to feel ownership over a project in order to produce the best results. Do not be afraid to empower your employees. Your success is their success.
  • Avoid reverse delegation.
    Sometimes your team will reject delegation and try to give the task back. This could be because they are uncomfortable with the assignment or do not want to take on responsibility. In the long run, team members need to learn and evolve with the team or leave. Harsh, but true.

Delegating is a tricky task, but an essential skill for every effective leader. Start small, learn to trust your team, and slowly but surely delegation will get easier.

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