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Here are two quick questions to think about…

  1. How insanely busy are you on a scale of 1-10? (I suspect I know your answer).
  2. If you are really honest with yourself: To what degree have you absolutely mastered delegation on a scale of 1-10?

If you scored yourself above an 8/10 on the delegation mastery question, you don’t need to read this blog. If you scored yourself lower, there may be an opportunity for you to create more free time for yourself. Hours and hours of it per week!

Who does delegation really benefit?

I get the opportunity to have conversations with hundreds of leaders each year about their key challenges. When you ask someone how they are doing, what’s the probability that the first answer back will be ‘busy’ or ‘flat out’? This simple answer implies an underlying amount of pressure and stress that is causing that person concern. A level of stress which is probably not conducive to showing up as best self.

There are many strategies we can employ to reduce our stress, and manage the pressure but there are fewer strategies for managing our workload. Author and leadership coach John Baldoni has a saying: “If you want to work 160 hours a week, don’t delegate.”

Delegation is critical to master because it positively impacts our own energy and resilience. It also impacts others that are in our teams by them feeling empowered instead of under-utilised or micromanaged.

Think about it this way – if you give yourself, say, a 6/10 in terms of currently mastering delegation, that means people that report to might be feeling either under-utilised or micromanaged to a 4/10. What is this doing to their engagement levels? In today’s scramble to attract and retain good people, can we afford for someone we don’t want to lose to feel that way?

So, if the benefits to delegation are so numerous, what stops us from mastering it?

Barriers to Delegation

Exhaustive research shows that the biggest barrier to delegation is often us, ‘the manager’. When managers are asked why they don’t delegate more, they often give the following excuses:

  • It takes too long to explain
  • My employees resist responsibility
  • It is easier and quicker to do [thing] myself
  • My employees lack experience and competence
  • If you want it done right, you better do it yourself
  • No one on my staff is quite capable of doing the work
  • My employees won’t like me if I expect too much of them
  • My people are already overworked. I can’t overload anything on them

Although managers offer the above excuses, the real reasons may be discovered in the following list:

  • What if the other person messes up the task; I am still accountable?
  • If someone else can do my job, maybe I won’t be needed anymore.
  • I am the supervisor/manager; I am supposed to have full control over everything.
  • I’m comfortable doing the job I’ve been doing for a long time.
  • If I give that up, then I have to concentrate on the responsibilities of my new job, which I am not comfortable with.

If you were being honest with yourself, what are the REAL reasons you don’t delegate as much as you should?

How well do you delegate currently?

The exercise below will help identify your strengths in delegating and determine where improvement would be beneficial. 

For each of the statements listed below, circle the number in the scale (5 to 1) that best describes you: the higher the number, the more the statement is a current strength in delegating. 

For each statement below, rate yourself on a scale of 5 to 1 based on how the statement best describes you (circle the relevant number, the higher the number, the more you believe the statement is a current strength you have in delegating). 

  1. Each of my employees know what I expect of them.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  2. I involve employees in goal setting, problem solving and productivity-improvement activities.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  3. I place my personal emphasis on planning, organising, motivating and coaching rather than on doing tasks others could do.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  4. When assigning tasks, I select the assignee thoughtfully.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  5. When a problem occurs on a project I have delegated, I give the employee a reasonable chance to work it out for themselves (and not step in to take control).
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  6. When I delegate work to employees, I brief them fully on the details of the assignment
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  7. I see delegation as one way to help employees develop their knowledge, skills and expertise.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  8. When I delegate a project, I make sure that everyone involved knows who is in charge
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  9. When delegating a task, I balance authority with need and experience.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  10. I hold my employees responsible for results.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  11. I have made a list of all the tasks in my own role, and have a plan for how I will be able to delegate 50% of these within 1-6 months.
    [5  4  3  2  1]
  12. I have told my employees that I will begin to delegate more to them, and am coaching them on how to prioritise their own workload to accommodate.
    [5  4  3  2  1]

Improving your delegating so your family sees more of you

How can you improve your delegation skills? A couple of simple steps are:

  • Look at the above self assessment results. Give yourself a pat on the back for anything you rated 4 and above. 

For anything less than 4 set yourself an action that relates to that behaviour and make it a 60 day challenge to undertake that action.

  • Make a list of all the key tasks in your role. Categorise each task as either:
    – Can be delegated now
    – Can be delegated in 3 months
    – Can be delegated in 6 months 

Stretch yourself by categorising at least 80% of your tasks. Next, put the actual names of people who you plan to delegate the task to now or in the future. Then, meet up one-on-one with each person and together work out the training or coaching they need in order to build their competence to do that task.

Once you have started putting these actions into place, surprise your family by consistently arriving home earlier from work!

Scott Erskine

Scott Erskine

Scott has successfully delivered leadership and performance solutions for management across a number of industries including retail, resources, construction, government and finance and has worked with organistions such as BHP Billiton, Woodside, Rio Tinto, Veolia, Western Power, GESB, Ramsay Healthcare, Police & Nurses Mutual Banking, Flight Centre, and the Australian Defence Forces.