The article was originally posted on Forbes Coaches Council.
One of the biggest challenges I hear from leaders is delegation:
• “I don’t have anyone to delegate tasks to.”
• “My team is too inexperienced.”
• “My team already has too much on their plates.”
• “It is just faster if I do this myself.”
• “If I delegate my tasks, I won’t be seen as a valuable resource anymore.”
I’ve heard all the excuses, and none of them are worthy of not delegating.
According to a study published by Entrepreneur.com, delegating tasks can increase a leader’s productivity and free up time for strategic planning, critical thinking and decision-making. Leaders who effectively delegate can also provide growth opportunities for employees and foster a culture of trust, collaboration and shared responsibility within an organization. However, many leaders, particularly women, struggle with delegation due to overwhelm, a lack of confidence and inexperience with delegation.
Why Some Leaders Don’t Delegate
To overcome these barriers, leaders must first understand what is holding them back from delegating effectively. Think about the circumstances and situations where you do delegate. What makes it easier? What tasks are a no-brainer to pass off to someone else? What tasks do you hold on to? Be honest; what is the risk of holding on to the tasks?
Some leaders may have a “messiah complex,” where they believe that they are the only ones who can get the job done or that their work is more critical than that of others. Leaders should challenge these limiting beliefs and recognize that delegation is not a sign of weakness or incompetence but rather a sign of strength and strategic thinking. This in turn builds bi-directional trust.
Why Leaders Should Delegate
Leaders who do not delegate effectively risk becoming a bottleneck in the organization, impeding progress and hindering growth. When leaders hold onto too much responsibility and do not delegate, they risk losing talented support staff who are ready for a challenge and may seek opportunities elsewhere. Additionally, leaders who do not delegate may fail to recognize and empower subpar talent who may have hidden potential and may benefit from additional training, coaching or feedback.
The negative impact of not delegating can be significant, particularly for female leaders. According to a study published by Harvard Business Review, women leaders are more likely to experience burnout than male leaders due to the pressure to be perfect, multitask and maintain work-life balance.
By delegating effectively, leaders can build trust, empower their team members and free up time for more strategic and high-value tasks. They also free up brain power by delegating low-value decisions to others. This gives leaders the space to make high-value decisions in an innovative and creative manner.
Four Tactics To Delegate Effectively
1. Conduct a brain dump.
List everything that is in your head: projects, tasks, etc. Categorize each task into one of four buckets: tasks that only you can do (Do), tasks that someone else can do better (Delegate), tasks that can wait (Delay) and tasks that don’t need to be addressed (Delete). Focus on the tasks that fall into the second bucket and identify the skills, experience and interests required to complete them successfully. Which team members are ready to have more visibility and opportunities?
2. Determine the next action.
For each project or task listed in your brain dump, determine the one next action. Not the 20 next steps, but just the next one. This will simplify your list and make it clear what can be delegated.
3. Focus on the ‘what’ first.
Leaders can start with what tasks they need to delegate and then decide who is the best person for the job. Often, leaders will mistakenly think about who first, which blocks their ability to delegate.
4. Assess your team.
Leaders can assess the strengths and development areas of their team members and match the right person to the right task. What skills, experience or brilliance is missing from the team? Leaders should also provide clear guidance, expectations and deadlines to avoid confusion, miscommunication or delays.
According to author and TED Talk speaker Simon Sinek, “A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.” By delegating effectively, leaders can help their team members develop new skills, take on new responsibilities and contribute to the overall success of the organization.
Delegation is a crucial skill for all leaders to master, but perhaps especially female leaders. By delegating effectively, leaders can increase their productivity; free up time for strategic planning, critical thinking and decision-making; and create a culture of trust, collaboration and shared responsibility within their organization. To overcome the barriers to delegation, leaders should examine and reflect on their fears, beliefs and assumptions about delegation.