Delegation – What is holding you back?

Delegating effectively

Delegation – What is holding you back?

What is holding you back from delegating day to day tasks? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Delegation, or as I refer to it – ‘letting go of the reins’, is a significant daily task that we know we should do as managers, but we seldom do well.

We often assume it’s younger managers or individuals who have stepped into new management roles that struggle with delegation. This is not always the case. It is managers at all levels.

What exactly is holding you back?

There are numerous reasons why managers find it difficult to delegate. The most common I hear include:

  • “I can get it done faster and better.”
  • “I don’t have time to train someone else.”
  • “I often delegate to someone who is unable to do the task to the required standard, therefore, I do it myself.”
  • “I like to maintain control.”
  • “I don’t’ feel comfortable delegating to someone I used to work alongside.”

Sound familiar?

Let’s explore these points further.

“I can get it done faster and better.” There is truth in this matter; delegation can take longer. It’s all about getting it right, saving money and time in the long run. In the wise words of Sir Richard Branson, “It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you. Getting them to join your business. And giving them good work. Then getting out of their way. And trusting them. You have to get out of the way so YOU can focus on the bigger vision.

It is necessary to give individuals the space to thrive, to catch people doing something right, rather than getting things wrong. I often remind managers that they wouldn’t be in their position without someone giving them a chance.

“I don’t have time to train someone else.”  The simple answer here is, MAKE TIME! Think of how many times you have ‘double jobbed’ and created extra work for yourself. Reason being, you didn’t invest time in someone. You also wasted valuable time having difficult conversations when you possibly needed to ask yourself; “Did I really do my best for that individual? Did I help set them up to fail?”

“I often delegate to someone who is unable to do the task to the required standard” Identifying each team member’s position on the Skill/Will Matrix will provide you with information about their readiness for delegation, and the appropriate approach to adopt. It will help you identify who requires more development or coaching to develop individual proficiencies.

“I like to maintain control.” It can be daunting when you first delegate. I still remember how I felt the first time I ‘let go’. I had that ‘fear’ the task wouldn’t be accomplished to my high standards. I remember hovering over the individual and making them feel uncomfortable. However, I slowly learned to ‘let go’ and to ‘trust’. My checks became a lot less frequent (you can say I had a much happier team) and I found the more I assigned responsibilities, motivation levels were high and standards were consistent.

Letting go isn’t really letting go – you delegate responsibility but never accountability. You do what every manager is supposed to do – you lead. Ultimately, you spend less time doing the task, and subsequently more time developing your team towards the vision.

“I don’t’ feel comfortable delegating to someone I used to work alongside” This is a common fear of most first time managers, especially those who are now managing their peers. The answer here – you just need to get on with it. The more resistant you are, the harder it will be to gain that much needed respect and authority. Take that leap!

Why you need to Delegate

Trust: Delegating responsibility is a powerful statement to your team about how much they are trusted and valued. Think of what this does to motivation levels.

Collaborative Working: The key to success is delegating and collaborating effectively. Do this and as Sir Richard Branson says: “You’ll find that you have more time to focus on the big picture and achieve the things you need to do to make your product or service stand out.”

Create Self-Working Teams: “The really expert riders of the horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs” – Sandra Day O’Connor. It’s important to learn the strengths of individual team members and develop them accordingly. Assign champions or team leaders. What’s just as important, is being aware of your own strengths. Know what tasks you’re good at to keep and what you need to ‘let go’.

Follow Up & Feedback: When you are aware of the capabilities and motivations of your team, you know who requires more guidance and support. If an individual is heading in the wrong direction, you can quickly help steer them in the right direction. A horse rider uses reins to guide a horse. After a while, the rider and the horse become accustomed to one another and begin to work collaboratively. Trust begins to build, and the rider now controls the reins more loosely as time prevails. However, the reins, whether loose or tight, must remain in the rider’s hands. It’s the same way with your team.

What happens now

Once you have decided what is holding you back, you now need to start letting go. You need to start delegating.

Clarify the tasks that need to be delegated. What absolutely must be done by you? Which tasks can be completed by others?

Clearly communicate the objectives and expectation level of each task. Ensure the individual is clear on what is expected and how it fits with the bigger picture (remember, the individual needs to be competent in what they are assigned to do – that means they can train someone else to the acceptable standard)

Agree on deadline and checkpoints.

Ensure your team know they can turn to you for any questions at any time.

Determine what is holding you back from delegating effectively and learn to ‘let go’. Start with smaller tasks first. Begin to slowly loosen the reins allowing your people to run more freely, remembering to help guide them when they appear off track.

If you are looking for help with delegation or you would like to discuss other development training needs. Feel free to get in touch. 

Shauna Pancott

Shauna joined OMT in 2017 and has over 4 years’ experience in Learning and Development. She specialises in design, development and delivery of both front line and managerial level management. Shauna comes from a retail family background and has over 4 year’s retail management experience with a multinational retail chain. She has extensive expertise and a true passion for Retail.

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