Decision-making is often listed as one of a leader’s most frequently tapped skills. Strategic thinking is another. Even so, at some point in their careers, most leaders can point to specific examples in their careers when they’ve failed to see the strategic advantage of delegating.
Many leaders fear delegation for a variety of reasons. Some worry that others don’t have the skillset to handle the work. Others feel they are responsible for the quality of the work and are thus more comfortable doing the work themselves. Still, others don’t want to be seen as passing off work on an already busy team. Occasionally, some leaders enjoy the work too much to hand it off to others, likely neglecting other leadership responsibilities.
While there may be some validity to each of these excuses for not delegating, in the long run, leaders who continually avoid delegation fail to develop their teams, burn out, and experience greater leadership failure. Here are just five compelling reasons to decide to delegate.
1. Delegating Frees You to Lead
In her video for our Fortunate Failures series, Christine Lin, chief medical officer for Affiliated Dermatology, recounts the moment early in her career when she realized what her failure to delegate was costing her.
“I reached a point one day when I stared at all the delayed projects in front of me and couldn’t figure out how to get it all done. I realized that I needed to figure out a way to get myself out of this quagmire, and I decided to give delegating a try.” While Lin acknowledges that delegating may slow you down the first day, she is quick to point out that it frees you to be a leader.
2. Delegating Helps You Develop Your Team
One of your key responsibilities as a leader is to develop your team. In his article, “,” for The Society for Human Resource Management, Sam Lloyd states, “Often, managers think that they are delegating when they assign tasks to employees. Sometimes this is merely dumping on people. Real delegation is assigning responsibility for outcomes along with the authority to do what is needed to produce the desired results.”
Lloyd points out the clear difference between simply assigning tasks to others and true delegation. By delegating both responsibility and authority to others, you are engaging them at a more meaningful level in the work. Employees who seek greater responsibility will thrive in an environment where they are trusted to get the work done. And as you delegate to them and their engagement increases so will your ability to focus on broader objectives and leadership responsibilities.
In his article, Lloyd also provides a “Delegator’s Dozen: Preparation Checklist.” New leaders and newly delegating leaders should bookmark the list for frequent reference.
3. Delegating Helps You Develop Stronger Relationships with Your Team
Working towards a mutual goal tends to unify people. Added to that, delegation requires regular communication and check-ins. With that unity of purpose and regular communication around a common goal, your relationships with those you work with will only deepen. As you discuss project deliverables, celebrate successes, and debrief obstacles, your employees will come to understand your leadership style and how to work more effectively with you.
Likewise, your trust in your employees will grow as you appreciate their accomplishments and contributions to the team and serve as their advocate. When employees feel that you trust them with responsibility and are advocating for them, their trust in you as a leader grows. Further, employees who have a stake in the successful outcome and results of an organized are more engaged.
4. Delegating Helps You Avoid Burnout
In his Inc article “7 Strategies for Delegating Better and Getting More Done,” Jayson Demers states, “Whether you’re a team leader, an entrepreneur, or in some similar position of authority, delegation is going to be a major key to maximizing your productivity and keeping yourself sane during tight deadlines or large workloads.”
Many corporations and entrepreneurs work under the principle of: Do more with less. The concept involves maximizing resources. Yet, time is a finite resource. Leaders who stretch themselves too thin are risking burnout or, as Lin’s video illustrates, a quagmire of delayed projects.
5. Delegating Helps You Increase Your Productivity
Delegation is the only way to free yourself from the mental muck of burnout and delays. And once you are delegating effectively, a funny thing happens. Time becomes a less finite resource as you involve more of your team. You’re able to collectively accomplish more than you would have alone. And momentum will build as each delayed project gets checked off your list.
Where to Start
So where do you start delegating? If you were to plot skill-level and level of effort on two axes, running from low to high, start by delegating tasks that require low skill and low effort. Low skill/low effort tasks give you and the employee the opportunity to work out any communication kinks early with relatively low risk. When those tasks are running smoothly, move on to tasks that require low skill, high effort. These are the tasks you should always delegate. Eventually, you’ll learn to delegate tasks that even require high skill and high effort to your top performers.
Just keep in mind as Lin explained, things may move more slowly to start. Employees will need background and information to take on tasks, including deadlines, expectations, and milestones. It will likely take more than one conversation and regular check-ins. Eventually, employees will need to ask fewer questions, have fewer check-ins, and will keep you posted proactively. And you’ll be free to lead!
Nelida Ruiz is a marketing and business development consultant and coach helping business owners maximize thought leadership with blogs, articles, and social media. For more of her work visit www.nelidaruiz.com