Delegating. Whether new to it or despite many years of practice and experience, why are so many still challenged by it so much? Are you?
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By now you’ve probably all heard that the number one reason people quote for leaving a job is their manager or leader, right? So if you are a leader, where do you think you sit on that risk? And if you are just learning to lead (and hence also to delegate), how long do you think it might take before you are “pigeon-holed” in your style of leadership? And which way is that most likely to go?
What role do you think good or poor delegating might play in that?
So why the need for delegating anyway?
I’ve done alright as a “doer”. Why all this fuss about leading and delegating? Well, let’s just pick a couple:
- What about succession planning? How can you advance even further, if everything remains still up to you?
- How can others learn, develop and grow, if you don’t give them a chance to take ownership of (a) piece(s) of the action?
- Does your ego really need to have all the accolades and recognition? Remember when the boss first let you have a go, how good the recognition tasted when you “blitzed” the expected outcome?
- “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) is what drives everyone. Imagine how much more your function or department can shine for you, your people, your key stakeholders and customers if you can leverage the power of letting those working for you to shine? Everybody wins, right?
- And if you’re growing, where will you find all the people you need to sustain that growth? Wouldn’t you select the really good ones in your team you already know and let them have a go, and hire additional ones to complement them (alongside) or work for them (under) so your, their and all your stakeholders expectations and results go through the roof?
- Think of your boss(es). If they’re any good, do you really think you could all be successful if they weren’t delegating? And how much better could you all be off, if they did it really well?
So what makes delegating seem so hard?
Here’s what my clients and I found to be some of the more common struggles:
- Many new leaders find themselves promoted out of a peer group which they now have to lead. “Mates”, that consider themselves “equals”. Perhaps collectively you were proud of your individual results as “productive doers” and jointly saw your leaders as an ” unproductive overhead“? Now you’re trying to satisfy both streams. You initial value proposition has to change to justify the new one. Tough call, isn’t it?
- While you initially strive to maintain both “doing” and adding the “leading”, that becomes unsustainable, right? Sometimes overwhelm forces you into the inevitable change. You have to learn “letting go“. “But they aren’t as good as I was in doing xyz…” you hear yourself saying. Well, how did you learn it in the first place, before you became so good at it?
- Perhaps you’re also struggling with differentiating accountability, responsibility and authority? No matter who does (or doesn’t) do what, as the leader you remain accountable – always.
And how often do you delegate the responsibility and they just don’t seem to take it or even “get it”. Until you learn to have them play back their understanding of the new task to you so you (and they) know they’ve “got it”. And do you give them the necessary context?
How much authority do you give them and how soon? If they screw up, I’m still accountable…
There are many more, I can assure you.
Delegating. So What
So what makes this difficult playing field a bit more palatable to master?
Firstly, as long as you’re controlled by your ego, it’s going to stay “hard”, until you let go.
Think back to some of your really great bosses. Can I assume that one aspect you enjoyed so much was that you were empowered to act and make decisions so that you were able to make meaningful contributions? Ones you were (justifiably) proud of? For the value you were able to add? For that winning feeling? For the recognition? Think about it – isn’t this one of the most motivating factors why we want to succeed in what were doing? Part of our WIIFM?
And doesn’t delegating form an integral part of that?
It’s so easy to expect when you’re on the “taking end” and remarkably easy to forget when we’re on the “giving end”.
The difference from my experience?
Awareness and a great coach to hold you accountable. Ask my clients.
Questions? Go on, email me at and let’s have a chat about it.
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