When you spend time in the workday handling numerous urgent yet small tasks, you may inadvertently lose focus of the bigger picture and your organization’s overarching goals.
You wouldn’t be alone, however; the Journal of Consumer Research found people typically choose to complete tasks with shorter deadlines, even when tasks with less-pressing deadlines promise a bigger reward.
If you typically focus on shorter deadlines, you may spend more time responding to emails or returning messages rather than delegating those tasks to other team members and advancing your company’s strategic objectives.
However, mastering effective delegation isn’t always simple, as there are various reasons why leaders struggle to delegate, including psychological barriers that hinder the process.
To help you master delegation and get a higher return on your time, we’re exploring three common fears leaders have about delegation, plus seven strategies to help you overcome them.
Why Delegation is Important for Leaders
The primary rationale behind delegation is that it enables leaders to focus on providing strategic value to their organizations. By relieving leaders of low-value tasks, delegation empowers them to concentrate on activities that contribute to their long-term goals and deliver substantial impact.
These tasks align with the important but not urgent quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix, such as updating business plans, formulating company strategies, or taking professional development courses.
Above and beyond this, though, there are other compelling reasons why leaders should delegate. Delegation allows leaders to leverage their skills and abilities across a wider scope as they enlist the assistance of subordinates to accomplish more.
Simultaneously, through delegation, subordinates gain valuable experience that translates into greater value for the company as they work on tasks previously covered by those in leadership roles.
3 Reasons Why Leaders Hesitate to Delegate
So, if delegation is inarguably best for both leaders and their teams, why do some leaders still struggle to delegate? Often, it comes down to psychological barriers and fears.
Leaders worry that, by delegating, they’ll…
- Lose importance or value
- Not see the same results that they might if they were to do it themselves
- Lose time as they spend it explaining to others how to complete delegated tasks
Additionally, some leaders simply don’t know how to delegate. As a Harvard Business Review article found, nearly 50% of companies surveyed in a time management study listed delegation skills as a top employee concern, but only about 30% of those companies offered formal delegation training.
By understanding and addressing these psychological barriers and getting appropriate training, leaders can overcome their resistance to delegation.
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7 Tips to Master Delegation (and Overcome Your Fears)
To enhance your delegation skills, consider implementing the following steps:
1. Recognize Your Subordinates’ Unique Skills
Acknowledge and appreciate the expertise and unique abilities that your team members possess. Recognizing their strengths can build trust and confidence among your team. Delegate tasks that align with their specific skill sets, ensuring you put their abilities to the best use possible and yield a high return on the time they put into their work.
2. Train Your Team
If you assess your team’s skills and identify areas they need to improve, take proactive measures by providing them with the necessary training. By enhancing the competencies of your team members, you empower them to effectively handle a broader range of tasks that you can subsequently delegate. The more training you offer your team, the more tasks you can delegate to them.
3. Master Prioritization
It’s essential to categorize tasks based on urgency and importance to delegate effectively. This categorization allows you to distribute tasks better and ensures you, as the company leader, are working on the highest-impact tasks.
4. Start Small
If you’re reluctant to delegate, starting by delegating smaller tasks can be helpful. By entrusting your team with more minor responsibilities, you can observe their capabilities and competence in handling such tasks. As you witness their success and gain confidence in their abilities, you can gradually increase the difficulty and volume of tasks you delegate.
5. Set Clear Expectations
When delegating a task, it’s crucial to communicate the desired outcome, deadlines, and resources to your team members. Conveying these key details ensures clarity and minimizes any potential confusion.
6. Provide Constructive Feedback
While setting clear expectations makes it easier for teams to meet your standards, this doesn’t guarantee perfection. To foster the growth and development of your teams, conduct regular reviews of delegated tasks and offer constructive feedback.
This practice fosters a culture of continuous improvement and provides valuable opportunities for your team members to enhance their skills and excel in their delegated responsibilities.
7. Use Delegation Tools
If you’re particularly worried about the act of delegation taking up too much of your time, consider using delegation tools — such as project management software or apps — to help you track and manage delegated tasks efficiently. By leveraging these tools, you can monitor the progress of delegated tasks, create and maintain a system of accountability, and optimize the overall efficiency of the process.
The Bottom Line
Even the most competent leaders can fall into the trap of not delegating based on their biases and fears. Understanding and addressing these fears can unlock higher productivity, promote team growth, and free leaders to focus on high-level strategic tasks.
If you want to improve your delegation skills further, take our free leadership assessment. This tool can help you gain a clearer view of your strengths and areas for growth, making it easier for you to focus on developing the habits that will most significantly improve your effectiveness as a leader.