Image Reasons to avoid delegating tasks or decisions - 6 limiting beliefs

“If you want something done well, do it yourself.” 

How often have you thought this sentence or heard it coming from a frustrated colleague or even your manager?

But what if it could be done better than just “good”? As a leader, we are constantly dealing with process optimization. But do we take into account the matters that seem to always end up on our desks, even though they don’t necessarily have to be done by us?  You know, the little bits that we are “quickly” doing ourselves because we already know how it’s done, and they are straightforward. These little bits, however, add up to a significant amount of minutes or hours each day. So how many “little bits” are you doing, and how much time do they steal out of your day?

In the long run, we’d love to get rid of these “time thieves”, but we’d have to … 

take the time to transfer this task in a comprehensible way.

find a suitable candidate who is capable of doing the job reliably. 

potentially train someone to understand the task, circumstances, and work materials i.e., software etc.  

plan feedback loops to ensure a high-quality working result.

know how to handle the disappointment and time lost in case the task has not been completed satisfactorily.

 

Suddenly, quite a lot of things accumulate that could go wrong in our eyes or even mean extra work. And this is precisely how things remain on our desks – we find excuses to stand in our own way when it comes to delegation. Why is that? Often it is firmly rooted beliefs or even experiences from the past that make us believe that it is better to hold all the reins ourselves when it comes to delegation.

6 typical beliefs that may let delegation fail in leaders’ minds already:

  1. Delegating is too much effort. I can do that faster by myself.
  2. I can do it better than any of my employees.
  3. Not delegating makes control and management easier.
  4. Delegating means losing the overview of what is happening in my department.
  5. I don’t want my own manager to think me lazy or incompetent.
  6. My employees are already rather overloaded with work; I don’t want to burden them with more work.

Certainly, there is a sentence or two in this list that you yourself have, if not spoken, at least thought at some point. But professional, successful delegation is about so much more than just taking the workload off your own desk. Let’s take a closer look and analyze what these limiting beliefs really do to your delegation, your time, and most of all, your team’s success.

“Delegating is too much effort. I can do that faster by myself.”

 

Even though this may be true for individual tasks, this thought quickly becomes a recurring pattern. As a leader, you gradually become stifled by routine tasks instead of focusing on leadership priorities. Moreover, how much time did it take you to complete this task in the beginning? Once a delegation process has been established that provides the employee with sufficient information and competencies and where questions and interim statuses can be quickly clarified, the time required to complete a task is also reduced – while your resources as a manager grow.

 

“I can do it better than any of my employees.”

 

While that may be true in some cases, this attitude prevents employees from learning new skills and developing further – which is one of your genuine leadership tasks and hence your responsibility. In the long run, the organization will stagnate due to impeded employee development and leaders insisting on superior competence. Moreover, you should ask yourself: What do I define as “better” in this context? Will the target be attained, regardless of how the employee found the solution, maybe even optimizing the process? Or is the overall quality of work not sufficient? If the latter is the case, you know at least which competencies and skills need improving. A gap analysis of this kind should always be the final part of the review in a delegation process.

 

“Not delegating makes control and management easier.”

 

In our so-called VUCA world, total control has become an illusion. If only because tasks and constantly changing requirements have become so complex that they can hardly be overseen by one person. If a modern organization is to evolve these days, this is only possible if the employees and teams manage and organize themselves to a certain degree. Thus, the leader’s role becomes more and more that of a coach and moderator, offering support and advice rather than control.

 

“Delegating means losing the overview of what is happening in my department.”

 

Especially when it comes to solving complex tasks which require teams, monitoring them becomes so time-consuming that decision-making processes get delayed and other leadership tasks will be neglected. Furthermore, employees’ talents and motivation remain untapped. You can’t even fathom their individual performance, leaving room for preconceptions such as “my employees aren’t capable of doing that.” Start with small sets if you find it difficult to hand over larger task sets or decisions. It is essential to demonstrate trust in the employee, to agree on joint interim statuses with enough time to reach the deadline, and not to intervene panic-driven just before the deadline.

It is beneficial for everyone to establish an infrastructure and habits for creating transparency. Who is working on what? What is the status of a specific project? Who needs support or could offer some? All these questions are important for everyone, not only the manager. And if they are answered, they make an excellent base for self-organization, autonomy, and continuous improvement – without losing the overview.

 

“I don’t want my own manager to think me lazy or incompetent.”

 

Will they actually think that? If there is a good reason for this belief, you urgently need to have a conversation with your manager. Because delegating is not just about taking the pressure off yourself, it’s about moving the team forward as a whole: By focusing on true leadership, designing strategies, improvement potentials, and innovations, as well as – most importantly – developing the employees with targeted challenges. If you have doubts about whether you are delegating correctly and the right tasks/decisions, the delegation strategy should be discussed with your own manager. Consider their recommendations and opinions on this matter. For this, however, you must first clear up your own activities and define delegation potentials, which you can then present to your manager. Obviously, “Boss, should I delegate more?” is not cutting it.

 

“My employees are already rather overloaded with work; I don’t want to burden them with more work.”

 

Suppose the entire team is complaining about too much of a workload to manage. In that case, this indicates a much graver problem: inadequate management of resources. Transparency about the individual tasks, workloads, and restructuring is required here. If such an analysis shows that the entire team is permanently overworked, you should discuss this with your superior and explain the situation, making suggestions on how to bring the workload back to normal. If, on the other hand, it becomes clear that only individual people are overworked, it is your task to facilitate a better distribution of tasks – which may mean that some employees first have to build up the necessary skills and knowledge.

Advantages of delegation for you as a leader

Aside from the obvious advantages that come with a decreased workload and a more balanced workday, there are other benefits: reduced stress levels and risk of burnout as well as more time for your personal life, etc. But as personal as this might seem, it actually makes you a better leader. Because more room allows you to consider the big picture, take time to develop strategies, and foster innovation by focusing on people-oriented leadership at the same time.

These are the circumstances under which operative managers become strategic leaders. A leader recognizes, values, and fosters his team’s expertise because he is genuinely interested in its development. So when looking at delegation from this point of view, it’s an actual win-win situation as the team is also benefiting from this type of management.  

Obviously, successful delegation requires a solid foundation – it’s called trust.

Use the following questions to determine whether you have already built a solid foundation for your delegation strategy:

On a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (very much)

  • How much do my employees trust me as a leader who acts according to what he says?
  • How much does the team trust each other?
  • How certain am I that my team delivers the results I want in the time I expect when I delegate something?
  • How much does each of the described beliefs about delegation influence my behavior?

If you caught yourself with low numbers on the first three questions and/ or a high number on the fourth one, it’s time to look into your delegation habits. 

How can you improve your delegation?

We have compiled the four most notorious bad practices for delegation, which you should be aware of any time you delegate a task or decision to your team. Download the infographic as a reminder of what not to do. 

If you want to learn the exact steps on how to delegate effectively, consider joining one of our courses. You can take advantage of self-paced training that teaches you with videos, workbooks, and additional resources on how to step up your delegation game. Or you opt for a combination of self-paced training and coaching sessions to find individual solutions to your current challenges.