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Why Leaders Don’t Delegate - And What To Do About It

Wednesday 27 July, 2022
Most leaders don’t know how to effectively delegate. They assume that telling someone to do something will achieve the results they want and are often disappointed. Often resulting in the leader completing the task themselves. When they need to delegate another task in the future, they often continue this pattern. By just asking someone to do something this is delegating at the highest level of delegation and will often fail until you have worked together long enough to understand how each other works.

What stops leaders from delegating?

One of the most common obstacles to delegating is psychological, based on the need to do everything yourself. This is compounded by the fact that many leaders know how to do the task as they often mastered it in a previous role, so it is not difficult for them to do. With many staff working remotely, this adds another level of resistance to delegating tasks to them.

When it comes to delegating, we falsely believe that we can do a task more quickly ourselves, rather than taking the time to explain to our staff what needs to be done. Whilst this may be true at first, if a task needs to be repeated, then the loss of time adds up quickly and too often a leader is losing time doing tasks that are below their pay grade. The unfortunate by-product of this situation is that after a while staff are not being developed and they realise that with a little bit of pushback their manager will do it themselves.   

 Why Leaders Don’t Delegate—And What To Do About ItHow should leaders delegate?

A more effective way to delegate is to start by sharing the task and working with staff to create a one-page plan together. Leaders need to start by asking their staff what steps they believe need to be taken to accomplish the task. Once the staff member starts sharing ideas, the leader can write these ideas down so you can see them and mentor their staff member toward the best solution. 

After identifying the specific steps to be taken, the leader can next ask their staff what order they think the steps should be taken and work with them to identify the best sequence to increase the efficiency of completing the task. If the task is complex or takes more time, during the discussion the leader can also ask the staff member to identify a couple of check-in meetings at a number of the steps to provide an update and ask for any support or assistance. 

After capturing the plan on one page (or on an electronic whiteboard when working with remote staff) take a screenshot or photo of it so you can remember what was discussed and the plan details. This visual image also helps provide the staff with a written plan of action to follow.

When leaders effectively delegate by working with their people, this increases trust and creates a sense of engagement and empowerment. Because staff have been involved in developing the plan, they also have a sense of ownership and commitment to ensuring that the task is completed.  

Fast tracking delegation over time

Over time leaders can fast-track their delegation further by getting their people to independently visually capture their one-page plan, and share it with them before executing the plan. This allows the leader to provide any additional insights or encouragement and starts shifting this project management skill set to their people. More importantly staff start to feel like they are the ones leading by identifying the plan and taking action to implement it. 

Eventually the goal is to be able to delegate to staff by just asking them to complete a task and trusting the process that they will take is one that helps get the desired result in less time. When you have followed the process identified earlier, it makes it a natural progression.

By investing a little time in the way they delegate to their people, leaders can improve their delegation and empower their people to perform at the next level, regardless if they are in the office or working remotely.

Author Credits

Scott Stein works with leaders and staff to implement fast-track strategies that improve results. He is author of the updated book Leadership Hacks: Clever shortcuts to boost your impact and results which includes Hybrid Hacks. For more information visit www.scottstein.com.

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