At first sight, delegation can feel like more hassle than it’s worth. However, most leaders understand the payoff of delegating: You free yourself to focus on higher-priority work while offering your team opportunities for growth and development. While this is an excellent idea in theory, many good leaders struggle to put it into practice.
There are several reasons why leaders may not feel comfortable delegating:
- They are worried about dumping their work on others. Delegation is not trying to make more work for your team, but to distribute it more efficiently so that tasks get allocated according to skills and workloads.
- They feel threatened. The aim is to make your team more efficient and effective – and to give others opportunities to use their skills and develop.
- They don’t want to lose control. See what it feels like to rely on others to do the work and enjoy how good it feels to watch them blossom with the added confidence you’ve shown in them.
- They think it would be quicker to do it themselves. Doing it yourself only saves time in the moment. If you teach someone else how to do it and delegate, it saves you that time forever after.
Managers are responsible for developing their employees to ensure that they are well trained, to identify future leaders, and to prepare their own successor when they move up or move on to other organizations. Delegating responsibility is a powerful statement to employees about how much they are trusted and how competent and valued they are considered to be to the company.
Delegation is a win-win when done appropriately. However, that does not mean that you can delegate just anything. To delegate effectively, choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the best people for the job, and support them along the way.
To determine when delegation is most appropriate there are five key questions you need to ask yourself:
- Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task?
- Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
- Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future?
- Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively?
- Is this a task that I should delegate? Tasks critical for long-term success genuinely do need your attention.
If you can answer “yes” to at least some of the above questions, then it could well be worth delegating this job. No doubt there will be discomfort and setbacks as you and your team adjust. Accept that mistakes will be made. Do not beat yourself up and question your decision to delegate. Instead, practice self-compassion, see these missteps as learning opportunities, and move on.
When you arrange the workload so that you are working on the tasks that have the highest priority for you, and other people are working on meaningful and challenging assignments, you have a recipe for success.
Harvard Business Review (2022, September 23) Dina Smith: Stop Feeling Guilty About Delegating
Mind Tools (2017) Mind Tools Content Team: Successful Delegation: Using the Power of Other People’s Help
Society for HR Management (2012) Sam Lloyd: Managers Must Delegate Effectively to Develop Employees