Delegation is the Decision to Replace Yourself
You’d delegate if you had the time, but it’s easier to do it yourself. Even though your brain says the previous sentence is self-limiting and ridiculous, managers still say it.
Managers know ‘doing it by yourself’ is a short-term strategy, but in high pressure environments all that matters is getting through the day.
5 reasons to develop delegation skills:
- You feel like you’re rowing alone.
- You work late. Everyone else goes home on time.
- You touch every decision.
- Your team feels like you don’t trust them.
- You’re bombarded with questions. People don’t dare to move forward without your nod of approval on everything they do.
7 reasons you don’t delegate:
- Others might outshine you. Insecurity is a bottleneck to delegation.
- You’re a control freak who struggles to trust people.
- Others aren’t equipped. They haven’t been trained.
- Mission and vision are ambiguous. People don’t know where they’re going.
- You overestimate your own importance.
- You’re protecting people from discomfort and stress. Coddlers end up overworked and underappreciated.
- The last time you delegated to someone, it was a fiasco.
Delegating is the decision to replace yourself in specific areas.
Begin with TASKS. Move to AUTHORITY:
Assign specific tasks. See how they perform.
- Do they follow through?
- When did their energy go up?
- How are they interacting with others?
- Do they look for more?
After an employee demonstrates competence, initiative, and follow through, delegate authority.
The difference between assigning tasks and delegating authority is control. For example…
Sweep the floor is an assign tasked. Keep the room clean is delegated authority.
Why do managers struggle to delegate?
What delegation tips might you suggest?
Great post, Dan!
Delegation is tough for me. Especially knowing my leadership style (participatory). I want to be in the weeds with my team and grinding it put with them. Problem is when I do that, I also have to be responsible for the big picture responsibilities as well. This easily leads to being overwhelmed and overworked.
The company I work for says we don’t delegate tasks, we delegate authority. The why behind it is that tasks create followers, and we want to develop leaders. When you said that tasks are a testing ground for authority, it made perfect sense. Thank you for this one, Dan!
Our process of delegation is with the intent to build individuals to become the leaders they are capable of. The initial trust level separates us from them, we need to learn trust and the process evolves in building of leaders.
There are individuals that will tell you they don’t want to lead, they aren’t good at it, etc.
Start small and build them up, showing them they have what it takes, its a confidence builder and a character builder all in one.
We need to learn to let go and pass the reigns.
My own journey to being a more effective delegator began when I took charge of three shifts of supervisors and workers with whom I had previously neither worked closely, nor trained. I found my phone ringing day and night with “given X situation, what should we do?” questions. It was obvious that their previous team leader had problems with delegation of decision-making authority, even though these were experienced folks and there were many established policies and procedures to guide them in all but the most unusual circumstances. I started asking “What do YOU think we should do?” The vast majority of the time, the calling supervisor knew exactly what needed to be done. Once they understood that they had my full trust and confidence to handle their responsibilities, the number of questioning calls began to decrease and were replaced by the occasional “heads up” call when an unusual situation had been dealt with. These supervisors all eventually went on to positions of greater responsibility and authority where they continued to shine. The only legacy I ever wanted was to develop people who would become better at my job than I had been, when my time was past. Watching their careers after I retired, I believe I succeeded.
Delegation is tough, but it is – in my opinion – a sign of having a more-than-healthy ego. I had to get over the fact that someone may not have done the task the way I would have, that didn’t mean it wasn’t done well. It’s also an opportunity to provide a learning experience (for both you and your staff). I looked at it as a form of in-house training.
“Why do managers struggle to delegate?” – “Others might outshine you. Insecurity is a bottleneck to delegation.” So spot on with this.
What delegation tips might you suggest? View it as teamwork, training, developing, broadening, opening others minds.
A few after thoughts on ‘delegation’ overall. When does delegation become passing the buck. Is it always the same people that you delegate to. If so, why. Can delegation become / encourage laziness.
This stands out, “After an employee demonstrates competence, initiative, and follow through, delegate authority.” What happens when you do not see consistent competence, initiative or follow through.? We have the classic battle here of Driven Boomers vs unenthused, sometimes slow, and sloppy Millennials so the delegation of authority comes sparingly. Drives us Boomers crazy most notably the unenthused and uninspired aspect towards work we see in the Ms. Sometimes its just easier for me to work the 1000 item RFQ in a few days (when its due asap) than to wait two weeks for one of the Ms to complete. (and this is regardless of any training and direction we put forth for them).
Very helpful insight… when you delegate you empower so a leader should empower others but that should be after assigning them and you monitor through. If you want to avoid disappointments then a leaders should set the tone at the start so that when you delage the delegated people will have your push, the same feel as you have because every good behaviour is contagious..if your work rate is low then expect a low push.
Thanks, Dan. I watch for the energy, either up or down, to see how I’m doing.
Baby boomer here, ‘I just scraped in’, standing in defence of Generation Y. Delegated so well that I did myself out of a job, but the redundancy goes with the satisfaction of knowing a work well done.
This is kind of a twist on delegation. Our branch had a phenomenal admin years ago (you know, back when admins were a thing.). She was divine at Microsoft, mail/merge (remember snail mail–some say it’s returning; probably as a retro-edgy-sort-of-thingy), and so many other features. Because I was business development, I did much of my marketing myself, but this woman, whom was my subordinate on the org chart, did me a solid. She recognized my ability to learn how and she taught me all sorts of Microsoft short cuts, tools, and hacks; many I still use today. Yes, my admin delegated back to me my work, because she had the whole office and I had solid deadlines she couldn’t always meet. But by teaching me how to do it myself even faster and better than I had been, she empowered me. I remember when she was showing me some feature, she did it like “here, I’d do it myself with somebody else, but I know if I show you how to do it, you’ll learn and do it yourself next time.” I felt validated. Strange twist, but right in line with being willing to continue my learning and remaining teachable.
To make delegating easier for you it helps if you have a strong team of people around you.
I have worked with and managed teams where I didn’t have that level of confidence. Whereas with my latest startup Task Pigeon I know I can rely on the team to get things done and it makes it so much easier to hand tasks over to them as a result of that.