Overcoming delegation hesitation – part 1


Do you find it hard to delegate? Are you worried about how best to pass on tasks to others?

Don’t worry, many managers and supervisors find delegation a bit of a challenge.

Yet don’t give up! Great leaders can draw out magic in their team members by delegating in the right way.

In this post, we will explore the 3 Ms of delegation success. If you can master these, you can master delegation. If you can master delegation, you’ll actually have a happier team, and you’ll gain time to focus on the things you need to, because as well as being happier, your team have more initiative and independence and are performing at their best.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, I promise, it is possible. All we need to do is to overcome delegation hesitation by mastering the 3Ms of delegation success.

  • Mindset
  • Match
  • Make it happen!


What are the reasons that managers don’t delegate?

Many managers find delegating difficult, yet the true reasons for not delegating are often hidden. Sometimes managers may not be consciously aware of their true reasons. Of course they will say “I don’t have time”, or “It will take me longer to show someone else, I may as well do it myself”, or “My staff aren’t skilled enough” or sometimes even “I’m not sure how”…lots of what sound like valid reasons there.

Yet let’s dig a little deeper. Are these the primary reason or the excuses for something else?

A few questions to consider…

Do you like to be in control?

Do you feel good when you take responsibility for a task and complete it independently? This is admirable and possibly one of the traits that got you promoted in the first place. It could also be a preference or a need that stops you delegating work to others.

Have past experiences led you not to trust your staff?

Has this led you to watch them like a hawk, or assume that they will not complete something on time? Sometimes staff let us down – they don’t finish something, they do it late, or they don’t do it well (to our standards). Ever had that before? I think we all have. How does it make you feel? Frustrated? Annoyed? Disappointed? Stressed? When we feel this way, our emotional brain can take over – it stores this evidence as memory and if it happens more than once, it’s reinforcing that memory and the emotion that goes with it. Our brain ‘learns’ that this person can not be trusted.

Are you a caring, nurturing person?

Do you like to do the right thing by others? People who have a naturally caring nature, who worry about fairness and equity, and others’ situations may avoid delegating because they are so nice! They may feel like they are doing something ‘bad’ or unfair to the person receiving the task. They might feel that they are placing their workload onto someone else, or making it stressful for that person.

People often will just say “I don’t have time to delegate” yet this is rarely the real reason. To overcome this we need to check in with ourselves and understand our thinking before we can change it.

So, what’s my number one tip for making delegation easier? It is about mindset.

And overcoming the 3 mindset barriers or biases we’ve explored with the questions above.

  • Control
  • Trust
  • Concern

Each of these can be dealt with through the way you delegate, the process you use and the way you communicate. Doing it in the right way will still give you some control, will provide ways to overcome trust issues and address your concerns for the other person.

In some ways, overcoming these needs or biases we have is the easy part. That can be done with a solid process for delegating.

In our Members Community, we have step-by-step guides to make the process and communication easier.

The main thing we need to do though is to step up into leadership and truly believe in the fundamental principle for successful delegation.

And that is….

It’s not about you!

Delegating is not about you. Although you may change your workload through the act of delegating, this is not the real reason we should be delegating.

We should be delegating to help develop our employees and to build stronger teams. We should be delegating to motivate and inspire confidence. We should be delegating to help with succession planning. Done well, delegating is actually more about the employee than the manager.

Through delegating tasks, you can further develop people’s skills, provide opportunity to challenge their thinking, help them build better working relationships. You can allow them to demonstrate their abilities, grow their knowledge, stretch them for future success. You may increase their motivation with tasks they enjoy or that challenge them, help them promote themselves to senior people in the business…the list goes on. There are lots of positives for individuals and the team in delegating.

More often than not, if you know your team well, delegating for motivation and development will inspire and engage employees. If you think about delegating as a way to develop and motivate, rather than as a way to clear your own desk, you might just be surprised with the subsequent results!

This brings us to think about what I call…

the MATCH!

What task do you delegate at the moment? Think about what you COULD be delegating – the types of tasks. It is likely that there are a range of task that really could be delegated – from simple, repetitive actions, through to more complex projects. You might have a database to update, a policy to draft, a building project to contribute to, staff training to deliver, products to order, contracts to negotiate.

There are variables across the different tasks – skills required, risks to consider, relationships to manage, and other potential impacts to the business. These things need to be factored in to how and to whom you delegate.

Ad alert! We have a resource available in our online Community that can help you plan out your delegation to chose the right person, manage any risk and monitor progress.

For now, I want to consider choosing the right person, as it relates to my number one principle of delegation not being about you.

We are all different in what motivates us at work, right? We all have different interests, passions and jobs that we like doing better than others. We all have different aspirations, hopes and dreams for the future. Roles we want to try out or be promoted to, perhaps.

To delegate effectively, firstly we need to understand what motivates our team. I’m not trying to make delegation sound harder by this, I’m trying to make it more effective when you do it – to benefit your team, to have the job done well, and to ultimately benefit your workload and time.

This should be something leaders are doing anyway – finding out what motivates their team (actually, last week’s podcast and blog was all about this!).

Let’s look at an example.

You have a disorganised database that needs tidying up. Good news! Some people LOVE updating databases. And the reasons they love them might vary. They might like routine work that they can become efficient at completing; they might like organising previously unorganised information, they might enjoy playing around with computers, they might be fanatical about data being correct, they might be passionate about patient outcomes and understand the role accurate data can play. Or another angle – they might be feeling overloaded at home or work and appreciate doing something that takes little thought or pressure – something that can be done in a quiet room away from the buzz of the rest of the team…Or, it might be a learning opportunity – someone new to the role who needs to improve their database skills to operate effectively.

Who do you have in your team that might be THE PERSON for delegating this task to? It’s about thinking laterally about the task. Think about what the positives might be of being involved – not YOUR thoughts on the task; what someone else might think if they enjoyed it, or needed to develop a skill.

See what I’m getting at here? Delegation is not about you!

It’s about the task first, then finding the best fit in your team.

Ready for Part 2?  Click here. We explore the final of the 3Ms – Make it happen!

The full discussion is also available on our podcast and YouTube channel.

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