Why Aren’t You Delegating More?

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

Delegating more is a common topic with many of my clients. Why do so many leaders hold on to tasks that others could do? Responses I typically hear are: 1) It takes longer to teach someone than to just do it myself. 2) They won’t do it my way or to my standard. 3) My team members already have enough to do. 4) I like doing these tasks even though others could do them. My question to each of these responses are: 1) What is the impact of not teaching them? 2) How will they learn to do it to your standard if you don’t teach them? 3) How do you know for sure they have enough to do and don’t want to take on more responsibility? 4) What is the impact of doing things that others could be doing?

I often ask my clients, “If you are doing it all yourself, then why do you have a team?” When leaders don’t delegate, they become overloaded and overwhelmed, and team members don’t learn how to take on more responsibility, so they don’t grow. By delegating, it helps everyone. There is an upfront investment in time to teach others, but the whole team benefits from the payoff.

I’ve also found that when leaders delegate, and team members don’t meet their expectations, many will re-do the task themselves rather than asking team members to correct it. What message does this send? How would you feel if you completed a task, and your work was thrown out and re-done? This is worse than not delegating at all. It hurts morale and stifles learning and engagement. Delegating effectively requires BOTH setting clear expectations upfront AND following up to let them know what was done well and what needs to be corrected. Otherwise, you are setting them up for failure.

When setting expectations, below are some key items to provide to your team members to help ensure they will meet your standard in successfully completing the task/project. They can’t read your mind, and they can’t reach the target unless they know what it is.

  • Introduce the task/project. Why is this task/project important?
  • Link the task/project to the person’s strengths, interests, and capabilities.
  • What is the desired outcome/result?
  • How will success be determined and measured?
  • What role/responsibility do they have?
  • What resources are available to them?
  • What should they do if they need help/get stuck?
  • How will they be held accountable for results?
  • Clarify next steps and plan check-ins. (How often will you check in with them or should they check in with you to track progress?)
  • Check for understanding. (“Just to be sure I communicated effectively; can you articulate your understanding of what I am asking for?”)
  • Express CONFIDENCE in the person’s ability.
  • Say, “Thank you for taking on this task/project.”

Below are some tips when following up to give feedback on what was done well and what needs to be corrected on the delegated task/project, so team members can learn and improve while staying motivated and engaged.

  1. Introduce the conversation. (“When you have five minutes, I need to talk with you about the briefing charts you turned in.”)
  2. State your intention and empathize. (“I know you worked hard and spent a lot of time on them and want them to be correct.”)
  3. Describe what the person did well/correctly on the task. (“The intro and summary look great. They clearly spell out the intent of the briefing and the main points you want to get across.”)
  4. Describe what needs to be done differently/corrected on the task. Be specific. (“Some of the tables in the middle of the briefing need a little work. They are a bit confusing for someone who is not involved in this project.” – Be specific about what needs to be corrected.)
  5. Check for understanding. Ask them to repeat what they heard. (“Just to be sure I communicated clearly; can you articulate your understanding of what I’m asking you to do?”)
  6. Offer support/help. (“What support do you need to get these revisions completed before the briefing takes place?”)
  7. Set the expectation for follow up. (“Let’s follow up tomorrow after you have re-worked these tables.”)
  8. Say, “Thank you.” (“Thank you for your work on this.”)

Delegating is one of the most important skills of an effective leader. It helps your team members develop their skills and take on more responsibility, so you can focus on the tasks that only you can do as the leader. If you remain the only person who can do your job, then that is where you will stay. Instead, grow your team members to take your place, so that you can continue to advance and move up.

 Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley

 “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” – John C. Maxwell

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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