12 Sentences that Prevent Reverse Delegation
Reverse delegation happens when delegated tasks end up back in your bucket.
Reverse delegation stalls the trajectory of your career, the growth of your team, and the success of your organization.
Why reverse delegation happens:
- You want to be helpful. Over-helpful leaders end up doing other people’s work for them.
- You don’t see it. Some employees are skillful at delegating work to their bosses.
- You have the wrong employees.
- You’re a control freak. Everything has to be done your way.
- You’re a perfectionist.
Accept 80% good enough from people who are 80% as skilled as you.
12 sentences that prevent reverse delegation:
- “What’s the next step you can take?” Use “You,” not “we.”
- “I hear you explaining ways that I might move the ball forward. What could you do?”
- “I want this to be a team effort. What contribution can you make?”
- “I think you misunderstood my question. I wasn’t thinking about something I should do. I was wondering how you might run with it.”
- “Which of your strengths might apply to this opportunity?” Don’t respond directly to reverse delegation. Just point to their capabilities.
- “No. It’s better for your career for you to grab this opportunity.”
- “What makes you reluctant to run this ball down the field?”
- “How might I make it feel safe for you to risk taking on this responsibility?’
- “It doesn’t help your career when I do this. What’s a small step you can take today?”
- “What comes to mind when you think of taking this responsibility?”
- “Dividing this into pieces creates more complexity.” Use this when people try to give back a portion of the task.
- “I know it’s easier for me to do it. But it’s better for you to do it.” Use this when employees say, “It’s easier for you.”
How might leaders prevent reverse delegation?
Which of the above sentences feel best to you?
** Send a message if I can be of service to you or your organization.
I used to be awful at delegating and found that maybe it was easier for me to just do it than explain it to someone else. This eventually catches up with you though, so the 12 sentences above could definitely help with delegating better!
Thanks Mitra. You took a positive spin on this. Much appreciated. Respect to you for saying you were awful at something. “\:-)
Me, too. It was hard for me to change my ways because nobody could do it better than me, right? It is a challenge of leadership to “allow” others to do something you can do…even if you can do it better. However, it is a reward of leadership to watch others succeed and grow because you have allowed them to develop in these situations. Good questions, Dan. Thanks!
Great questions to ask to not take on OPW (other people’s work)! It’s good to decide on outcomes and let them determine how to get there.
Exactly! Thanks Lynne.
I learned to (not) delegate from my father. Fortunately, I had spent several years working for his right hand man. It was a real struggle to learn how to do my job when my father couldn’t seem to let go of any part of his. Installing an enterprise system helped. It gave me a company wide area of expertise that he lacked.
WOW! I so needed this today. Printing these questions, so I can begin to practice them.
Anyone who finds the above useful should not be a manager because they don’t have the manager’s mindset. It goes like this:
We are a team and our target it xxxx. I am non playing captain, YOU are my key players and here are the individual tasks I’ve allocated. Away you go to get on with them, meanwhile I will be having a long lunch with lovely HR manager Abby Sinclair.
The codicil to this is as manager you have to prove occasionally that you are not asking people to do anything you would not be prepared to do yourself. For example, on a project to install a new telephone and data natwork in a large hospital complex, “Each of you will lead a team made up of our admin people and hospital staff to test every extension and data point. I’m aware some of you are reluctant to work in the mortuary area so I will take that myself. Two hospital staff have offered to help.”
And that is earning the respect of the team.
Thanks for your comment. I don’t see an either/or choice between your comment and what I wrote. Thanks again.
It’s a question of approach Dan, I once attended a talk given by a ‘management guru’ to a British audience. His first point was very much like yours, showing a video clip of a staff member bringing a problem to a manager by saying “We have a problem.”
“What is YOUR problem [Jim?]” the manager replies.
The guru paused the video to tell the audience how he had cleverly declined to accept responsibility for the problem. He was immediately ripped to shreds by the audience who reminded him of the maxim “the buck stops here.” I was there as an external consultant and did not take part in the discussion though I did make a few bullets for others to fire.
If the team has a problem it is always in the end ‘our’ problem and not ‘their’ problem. A strong manager does not take on the task but takes on responsibility for it, guiding and advising.
It really comes down to whether one sees the role of manager as a bureaucrat or a leader.
I like your approach greenteeth much more. All the replies are very condescending.
Some of the “sentences that prevent reverse delegation” seem a little condenscending. I think “I can’t do it, I don’t have the time” is sufficient. Basically anyone can say this to anyone else.