Make Delegating Second Nature

When I was leading my first team, I felt like I had to do everything myself. I was afraid of letting go of control, disappointing others and losing my credibility. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and to be honest, not very productive or setting a good example for the team. Luckily I’ve made progress since then and learnt how much each team can win by promoting a culture where you make delegating second nature

Many of us struggle to delegate. We think “If I just do it myself, at least I know it’ll be done properly”, “I already know where everything is, so it’s easier” or “I don’t want to look like I’m struggling”.

Why We Avoid Delegating

The main reasons for delegation avoidance are:

  • Lack of trust: The fear of the task not being done correctly or in a particular way.
  • Time constraints: Feeling like there isn’t enough time for a handover or to train someone else to do it.
  • Control issues: It can be hard letting go of the ownership that comes with completing the work yourself.
  • Power dynamics: Not wanting to give up the power or authority of a project and fear losing status, influence or recognition by delegating.
  • Guilt: Worrying that we’re not, or looking like we aren’t, doing our fair share or that we’re shirking our responsibility

Delegating more work will help you and your team become more productive and boost trust, collaboration and morale. It will lead to a stronger and more creative team with greater knowledge and new opportunities for team members to take on new challenges. But you need to make delegating second nature, not a rare and awkward thing. If done well, sharing tasks also reduces stress by taking some of the burden off individual team members and allowing them to focus on critical tasks. Team members that work closely together also have more opportunities to support each other on all levels.

How to Delegate Better

To overcome the barriers to delegating, both for ourselves and our wider teams, there are a few things we can start practising.

Building Trust:

  • Start with smaller tasks to develop trust in your team members’ abilities. 
  • Encourage others to share tasks across the team.
  • Schedule regular check-ins for progress monitoring and guidance and offer assistance when needed.

Managing Time Effectively:

  • Plan ahead, allocating time for handovers.
  • Investing time in training upfront saves time later.

Addressing Power Dynamics:

  • Publicly acknowledge team contributions and give credit to strong teamwork and individual performances. 

Overcoming Guilt:

  • Define roles clearly within the team.
  • Encourage delegation as a growth opportunity for all.

Clear communication:

  • Encourage open discussions about delegation concerns.
  • Communicate with compassion and understanding.
  • Set clear instructions and expectations.

Delegation should always be done with kindness, clarity, and purpose – treating the person you are delegating to with respect and understanding: making sure that they are willing to take on the task and has the right tools to do so.

When done right, delegation makes everyone a winner, including YOU – making the best use of YOUR time. 

What’s not to love?

The author is Graham Allcott, founder of Think Productive and author of How to be a Productivity Ninja

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