I’m too busy. I’ll do it myself. I love doing it… why hand off the task? My team is already swamped, why give them another job?
As a leadership advisor, I’ve heard it all – from managers at Fortune 500 companies to energized entrepreneurs.
What amazes me about most excuses for delegation is this: The intentions are good. The leaders I advise are hard workers. They take great pride in their team-focused attitude to getting the job done.
They’re not armchair leaders.
But when it comes to delegation, it’s time to pull up a chair. Sit back. Let someone else tackle the task.
If that makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. It’s important to understand exactly why you avoid delegation. See the 5 most common excuses and get “the fix” for each before diving into the 4-step delegation habit.
It’s also helpful to reframe how you think about delegation: What you’re really doing is delegating results. When done correctly, delegation gives an employee ownership to achieve the results you require.
Once you can emphatically say yes, delegation is good for my company, my employees, and my own personal leadership evolution… you’re ready for the 4-step plan.
Warning: Delegation is Like Any New Habit…There’s Temptation to Return to Old Ways
That discomfort you feel about delegation? It’s not going anywhere. As you put these 4 steps into play, your inner voice will entice you to return to the old way – of doing it yourself.
It’s the same feeling you’d get if you committed to a new morning workout. The “old you” would prefer to spend that extra hour in bed, at the office, checking email, enjoying coffee.
Over the years, habits become automatic. So automatic that scientific studies show your brain is wired to perform them on autopilot. But now, you’re the driver with the keys to delegation.
When one of the 5 delegation excuses arise, resist the temptation to act. You may feel irritation, frustration, even anger as you adjust to the delegation habit. That’s OK. What matters is your actions. Stay the course and follow through on each of these 4 steps:
1) Pinpoint the Task
Start by defining the task you will delegate. Use these questions to guide you:
- What task do you tackle first in the morning? Unless you abide by the “do the worst, first” rule, it’s likely a simple task you use to ease into the day. Could it be delegated?
- Is it a one-off task or an ongoing job? Ongoing jobs – like weekly reports – are often your best opportunity for delegation.
- Are you consistently leaving the office late? Is there a task adding hours to your day?
Another way to choose what to delegate: Identify what you’d take on if you had more time. Would you finally put that marketing plan together? Upgrade your IT to prevent a security breach? Analyze the competition? These to-do items would improve your company.
What are you doing today that isn’t impacting your company tomorrow? Delegate it.
Write up a one-page brief on the task. You’ve probably been doing the work for years, so it’s become second nature. Be overly detailed when outlining the steps needed to complete the work.
Once you’ve pinpointed the task, pinpoint the person for the job.
Which person on your team is the right one for the job? You’ll be fighting one of the toughest 5 delegation excuses at this point: I do it best! However, you’ll never know if that’s really true unless you delegate.
If there isn’t someone on staff with the skills needed for the job, could you provide training? Teaching an employee new skills is an opportunity for growth and improved job satisfaction.
Another option: outsource to a contract worker. Wincing at the thought of spending money? Calculate your hourly rate if you’re on salary or take a draw from the company. Chances are the hourly rate of a staff member or contractor is much less.
Once you’ve selected the person to handle the task, set up a meeting. Review the one-page brief together. Then, ask this critical question:
“Can you repeat the task back to me?”
Your delegate may feel insulted at first, but explain that you don’t want to assume anything. After all, the task is second nature to you.
2) Set Up a Feedback Loop
Avoid the trap of delegating – then looking the other way. Just because you’ve gotten a task off your plate, you’re not absolved of responsibility for the results.
On the flip side, you may be tempted to micro-manage. Looking over an employee’s shoulder not only impedes their work, it shows distrust.
Instead, build confidence and maintain quality control with a feedback plan. In your initial meeting with the staff member, set up a schedule for brief check-ins. You could ask for a 5-minute sit down report every Friday, or a simple weekly progress email.
Remember, you’re delegating results. If an employee takes a slightly different route to achieving the results,
3) Measure Progress
Delegation is all about balance. Be mindful when asking for feedback from the employee. You don’t need to know every detail.
Remember, above all you are delegating results. Along the way, the employee may have a slightly different method for achieving those results. That’s a good thing. It means they’re running with their new task and taking ownership.
Still, it’s understandable that you want to measure progress. So, create benchmarks that are covered in the weekly check-in.
I often work with leaders to create simple quality control charts for tasks. There’s a proven formula that I’d be happy to share – just contact me directly.
4) Recognize Success
You’re probably in the habit of rewarding employees who do a great job. Go above and beyond for delegated tasks for the following reasons:
- Other employees will notice the extra attention – and may offer to take on a task for you.
- Positive reinforcement will ensure that the employee maintains the same level of performance as they integrate the delegated task into their workload.
- You’ll emphasize your position as a leader. Good leaders aren’t afraid to shine the spotlight on others. This may be difficult, since you’re acknowledging that yes, someone else can do the task you used to do – and do it well.
DON’T Take Back the Task
Fight the good fight. Don’t give into the desire to take back the task.
Perhaps the employee didn’t meet your expectations. Could you have done a better job outlining the task in Step 1? Should you have been more thorough with benchmarking along the way? Did you skip a weekly check-in? Give the employee another chance. If they still underperform, then look to another staff member or outsource.
Whatever you do, don’t take back the task.
The first few times you delegate work, there are bound to be bumps in the road. But soon it will be come a habit. You’ll be delegating on autopilot. You’ll see that the more you delegate, the more time you have to notice – and seize – opportunities that can take your business to the next level
CEO, Certified EM Advisor
Rom LaPointe works with organizations seeking authentic guidance from a trusted source, true leadership team engagement, and progress toward common goals.