Have you ever been in this situation – you have numerous projects or responsibilities on your plate and you feel like it’s up to you to accomplish them all?
You may have one or even several employees on your team, but you feel like you have to be the one who controls how and when everything gets done.
Why Are Some Managers Reluctant to Delegate Work?
There are several common reasons that managers may be hesitant to delegate to others. These may include:
- If I have to spend the time explaining to someone else what I need, I may as well do it myself.
- I’m not organized enough to be able to hand off the task successfully.
- I don’t know that it will get done the way I would do it.
- What if someone does it better than me?
- I don’t know if my team has the right skill set.
- I’m not sure if I can trust someone else with the responsibility.
These are just a few of the many reasons that managers give to avoid delegating work to others. They may see it as a way to retain control, make sure they are seen as valuable to those above them (i.e., ensure they don’t delegate themselves out of a job), or want to make sure the work gets done right. There are others who may also struggle with the concept of “delegating versus dumping.” They may think, “If I ask someone to take on this task will it be perceived that I’m just dumping work on them that I don’t want to do myself?”
Benefits of Delegating
While it’s oftentimes easy to look at the downside of delegation, here are a few reasons why delegating to others can be a positive thing:
It can result in better trained employees – Delegation is a great way to put development opportunities in place for your employees. It helps them to grow and develop new skills.
Productivity may increase – Managers have the opportunity to be performing more strategic and high-level work by delegating other tasks to their employees.
Staff are more motivated, which may lead to increased retention – When employees feel like they are being empowered, growing in their roles and given increased knowledge they will tend to stay with an organization longer. This also helps to establish a culture of trust which can lead to longevity of employees.
It saves time and money – As noted above when managers delegate it saves them the time that they would normally spend on certain tasks or responsibilities and allows them to focus on higher level work. By doing this the company can pay a $25 per hour employee to do the task instead of paying the $45 per hour manager to do it.
In addition, by helping employees develop new skills, it puts them in a better position for promotional opportunities. When these occur, the transition into the new role may be smoother because of the skills the employee has already learned from these development opportunities.
It’s also important to remember that when you delegate to employees you don’t just “dump” the work on them with no explanation. This is often where delegation goes wrong – employees get frustrated and the manager ends up saying, “See it didn’t work. I’ll just do it myself.”
In order for delegation to be effective, you need to be able to articulate to the employee specifically what needs to be done. In doing so it’s important to give clear instructions and to discuss and agree on the resources that will be required, as well as perhaps even explaining what a successful outcome would look like. This is especially important if this is the first time the employee is performing this type of task.
Along the way one key component is to provide support and communication while not giving the impression of micro-managing. Depending on your personality style this could be a challenge but one way to do this is to “trust but verify.” This means trusting the employee to get the work done but verifying every so often that the person is on schedule, especially as it gets closer to the timeframe in which the work needs to be completed. This is also accomplished by providing timely feedback to the employee. This will allow the employee to feel supported and also help ease the mind of the manager that the work is getting done, leading to a win-win situation.
What and when to delegate
More often than not, the hesitation to delegate is driven by a fog of what to delegate and when. Deciding “in the moment” becomes the default that most people don’t manage well.
- Before delegation can begin, the delegator has to learn to TRUST. Without this component, they are setting themselves and their employees up for failure.
- True to the mantra “you have to spend time to make time”, it’s important to sit down and spend the time to assess the skill sets and growth paths of your employees and select, intentionally, what tasks you can begin to let go of and to whom. This requires planning and organization, and is often the hill that non-delegators can’t climb.
- Once identified, assess what your employees need to learn in order to successfully handle the task. Start with smaller tasks that require repetition, so that employees can master the task over time, through practice, without high risk of failure or repercussion. Tasks that repeat also take more work off your shoulders as time passes.
- Employers should then schedule time to teach or have the employee shadow them or provide a mentor while they demonstrate the task and answer questions.
- Next, set clear expectations, assign the work, and then check-in mid way to ensure employees are on the right track. Course correct if necessary, and let them finish. Assess results, give feedback and let them repeat the task when the opportunity arises.
- Finally, leaders need to accept that as long as the work is done accurately and the final results are as needed, they have to allow employees to do some things “their way.” What works for one person doesn’t always work for others. Unless a process is regulated and spelled out in an SOP, allowing for some flexibility in the work styles of their employees is an important, and perhaps a hard, thing for the delegator to accept.
As challenging as the thought of delegation may be, when done the right way with the right employees, the benefits will far outweigh the risks and result in a successful outcome for all and you can avoid burnout for yourself while growing your employees.
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