Most of us know that delegation is an important aspect of leadership. Yet I see much struggle around doing this. We struggle by continuing to do tasks that can be given away. It then begins to feel like we are running out of capacity. The result is often overwhelm.
I illustrate 5 reasons why leaders fail with delegation.
1. The Doer
Managers who were individual contributors got their recognition from ‘rolling up their sleeves and diving in’. One can see the seduction with ‘doing’. Others who have been leading for a while over-identify with their identity as being great executors of tasks. They fall into the ‘doer’ trap.
Riya got top performance scores year after year supporting a sales team in proposals. But the moment she became a leader of a pre-sales and consultants team she felt stuck and overstretched. She found that 24 hours wasn’t enough.
She began to question her efficiency. She later realized that she was doing her role plus the thinking tasks of some of her other team members. She learned that her job was now also about getting things done and being a bit distant even if tempted to get in.
2. The Perfection Syndrome
‘I don’t know if others can do it as well as me’. ‘What if what they deliver is below standard and it all comes back to me again?’. These two statements often sum up the perfection trap. This keeps us stuck in doing.
Pranav often found himself critical of his team members in meetings. Finding fault, being picky at small mistakes and micro-managing became his style. He felt insecure that they would not provide him with the output needed. When unhappy with their work he often jumped in and got involved.
This began to irritate the team. Pranav had to learn to step back and allow others to do what they could do best. He also had to learn how to give feedback and coach better. He learned the skill of getting work done by enabling and empowering others.
3. No role models
Many of us have not had good modeling on how to delegate well. We have not had our leaders spell out why they are giving us responsibility. We have not experienced health monitoring. Our leaders did not support us or provide enough challenge and growth in our roles. As adults, we learn best when we have good role models to follow.
I had some great bosses in my early work years. Bosses who planned well and communicated the same with great clarity. One of my bosses stands out in his capacity to use the board well. Bullet points and diagrams covered the board during team meetings.
People with tasks next to their names, dates, and follow-up actions were written down. Such a dashboard was updated for all to see. He held regular monitoring meetings which helped get feedback and reframe plans.
4. Not wanting to look like ‘I don’t know anything’
Many of us believe that leading is about knowing all tasks and how to do them well. This idea itself is faulty as that is not our role as leaders.
Prakash was a senior project Manager of two new teams. The technology area was new to him and he had a team with many experts in the domain. He thought this many times a day – ‘ I don’t know enough ‘, ‘I need to learn more’, ‘ I need to sound more in control in meetings’, ‘ Did I sound like I have expertise?’.
This kind of thinking led him to not delegate enough. Prakash had to learn that he need not be an expert to lead. He understood that he needed to focus on outcomes, ask questions, and know only enough to guide the team toward outcomes.
5. Not seeing the value of our time
A leader’s time is for expansion and innovation. Being overfocussed on mundane valueless tasks can be limiting. Understanding the true value of our time and energy allows us to focus on what we need to be doing.
The real value of our time is in ideating and thinking.
Be higher in value interventions. This benefits your team and organization and leads to growth.
Vinu was a small entrepreneur expanding his organization and product portfolio. But like many small entrepreneurs, he was hesitant to spend money. He had not built a solid team or outsourced what others could do. He still functioned with a frugality mindset. He spent time on routine operational tasks leaving very little time for ideating. His health suffered from overwork.
His products had no innovation for a few years. He needed coaching to change his approach and make a plan for valuing his time and energy. He outsourced tasks plus got a small team going. He learned to value his time and calendar differently.
Owing to this he could carve out time for what matters- innovation.
Which of the above do you relate to?
Are there some changes you have made to not be in these traps? Do read this blog where I write about the effective steps to delegate.