What does Poor Delegation Look Like?

Poor delegation skills can have a negative impact on management, on the individual, and on the organisation. Executive coaching psychologist Peter Doyle provides guidance on how to improve and achieve better outcomes.

The ability to delegate effectively is crucial to successful leadership; and yet delegation remains one of the most misunderstood and clumsily executed of management tasks.

The repercussions of poor delegation are wide-ranging:

  • Management and leaders are stressed and overwhelmed;

  • Team members lack motivation and morale;

  • While the organisation suffers, due to low productivity and high staff turnover.

Here are just a few examples of the behaviour you will see in a leader with poor delegation skills:

  • Offloading only the boring or unpleasant tasks, that they don’t want to do themselves;

  • Delegating to another, only to end up doing the task themselves;

  • The “dump and run” – assigning a task to somebody else, and leaving them to sink or swim;

  • Abdicating responsibility for a task that they themselves should really be doing;

  • Micro-managing and requiring constant updates, only to fuss or frown whenever the individual has made a decision or moved forward on a project without their specific approval.

Why is Delegation So Important?

Delegation is the secret to growth. As John C Maxwell says:

If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.     

Leadership Truth #1: You can’t do everything yourself. Many of us were raised with the old saying, “If you want something done properly, do it yourself”. However that’s a recipe for burnout. It might seem easier to do things yourself, but in the long run it is much more effective to train others to do more!

Leadership Truth #2: People give more to tasks when they feel a sense of ownership. It provides motivation and they are more invested in the outcome.

So why do we see so many examples of poor delegation in workplaces? Often people become leaders or managers because they are good at what they do; but that doesn’t mean they know how to lead or manage. Delegation doesn’t come naturally. However the good news is that like any skill, effective delegation can be learned.

How to Delegate Effectively

If you are serious about developing your delegation skills, here are some tips:

  • It starts with you. What is stopping you from delegating more? You may genuinely feel that you can do a better job; or if you are really honest with yourself, you don’t want to share the credit with others. Take a moment to examine your own motivations, and any other possible obstacles you may face when it comes to delegating tasks.

  • Consider the benefits. Effective delegation is good for productivity, morale and motivation. It will help your team members to develop their leadership skills, and reduce your workload and stress over time.

  • What could you delegate? One of the biggest barriers is not knowing what to delegate. Start writing down each task you do on a separate post it note, and stick it on the wall in front of you. After a couple of weeks, separate your notes into different piles according to category – this will help you to see any patterns in your work. What are the tasks that are done most frequently? Could any of them be delegated?

  • Delegate with Purpose. Assigning projects or tasks should involve more than just picking a name from a list. Reflect on your team members, their skills, their availability, and whether the tasks would see them working to their strengths, or if there is an opportunity for their individual growth and development. Be transparent about this process and let other team members know why you have made a particular selection.

  • Passing on the baton. Discuss the goal of the project or task with the team member, and make sure you listen to any concerns they may raise; they may have a valid point that needs to be addressed. Clarify the time frames, the resources, or support that will be needed, and most importantly, remember it is not about telling them how to do it. You are delegating the outcome, not the process. Instead, ask the individual for their input, and allow them to propose their own strategies and solutions.

  • Make a record. Write down the goals and expectations and share them with team members; schedule meetings to check in at key stages.

  • Show an interest throughout the project – but let the team member lead the way. Remember when you delegate a task, to delegate the authority to complete it as well, as this is helpful in their own leadership journey. Don’t be a bottleneck! There is nothing more frustrating for your team member than having to come back to you constantly for sign-off or approval.

  • Acknowledge and appreciate. While your team member will likely enjoy the feeling of ownership and the rewards of a job well done, don’t assume it. Extrinsic approval and appreciation are important too. Celebrate the successful completion of a task or project with coffee, a card, or a mention at your next team meeting, and make sure they get the credit for the role that they have played.

Learning to let go is difficult whether we are talking about our personal or professional life. But when it comes to delegating effectively, the long-term rewards far outweigh the short-term commitment!

Would you love to gauge how you are currently tracking along your own path to becoming an Extraordinary, Inspirational, Next Generational Leader: then please click here to utilise our free self-rating questionnaire!

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