The HR Juggler

Delegating…Why Do We Find It So Hard To Do?

Posted on: September 28, 2011

I am quite happy to be delegated to. I rarely, if ever, mind taking on extra chunks of work or projects, have always enjoyed the autonomy that they bring and am keen to deliver and report back on the progress that I have made. For some reason though, taking on projects and tasks often comes more naturally to me than the art of delegation does. Am I alone here? I somehow doubt it!

So, why do we find delegation hard to do and what myths are we kidding ourselves with that prevent us from doing it properly? Some that immediately spring to mind are below –

  • It’s just easier to do it myself.
  • I don’t have time to delegate
  • I have no-one I can delegate to
  • No-one else will do it as well as me

The truth is that until we take control of our workloads, stop running around like headless chickens and start properly planning what tasks we are able to ask others to do, we will always struggle to delegate effectively. The above myths are exactly that – we know logically that delegating tasks and projects makes our lives easier, but it does require personal organisation and regular follow-up, as well as support to the individual you have delegated it to, who may well be developing their skills through the experience of taking it on. 

Some other realities? Sometimes we resist delegating tasks, because they are actually easier and more comfortable than the ones that we really should be focussing on. Sometimes by doing things ourselves, we feel the false glow of supposed indispensability. Sometimes, by not delegating, we deprive others of development opportunities that could help them grow. And all of these can become vicious circles of our own and others ineffectiveness, before we know where we are. 

I, for one, am going to try to take back control of my ballooning inbox, start afresh tomorrow as I mean to go on….and get back to some serious delegating!

Is it just me…………….? Now that I would love to know 😉

4 Responses to "Delegating…Why Do We Find It So Hard To Do?"

Alison – you are not alone!!!!

Definitely not alone!

Funny how for all the books and logic it’s still such an issue for so many of us. For me this says that we’re probably missing some fundamental insight into how we (humans) see tasks and change.

One of my observations now that im getting old (!) is that in general, within organisations, a significant amount of people are operating at least one level below which they should and this is largely due to poor delegation. The drivers of this are very strong and include all the ones you have listed. I think key underlying themes:

Trust – delegation requires trust in the individual you delegate to and one thing that is missing from organisations generally is a healthy dose of trust.

Input – if you delegate to people who are developing they are likely to mess it up, so you need to dip in and put them on the right track – this is what often leads to the “best do it myself” issue you raised.

Inner confidence – in yourself to stop you clinging on to the comfortable things, another important point you make.

Acceptance – that people will execute differently to you and also make different judgements. The fact that its not done the way you might have done it yourself is not a good enough excuse to avoid delegation.

Managing upwards – often what we do and how we delegate is influenced by our own boss. “Why did you delegate that? I asked you to do it!” Its really hard to be an effective delegator if you work for a poor delegator!

When addressing this issue to myself, I always go back to something I was told to aim for years ago:

“The only thing on your desk should be your feet!”

I for one have a real issue with delegating, so you’re definitely not alone!

I think for many its that feeling of a lack of control, and also that we’re actually offended if people take your ideas and make them better in their execution of the work?

Having had delegation come up in my appraisals several times, I have now tried to put a slightly different slant on my reasons to delegate. Yes, there are task that quite frankly I’d be over paid to do and my time should be spent doing other things, and by doing them, I’m probably just putting off doing something I don’t want to, but should be doing. But the bigger shift for me was to get into a mindset that said ‘if I delegate this, they may benefit more from doing it, than I will benefit from NOT doing it!’ That was a hard shift to make but I firmly believe in the benefits from engagement and development because of delegation and that giving people interesting projects to do might help them develop personally and professionally.

That said, ‘Control Freak’ should still be my middle name, and I’m sure we’re not alone on that either!

Thought provoking blog again Alison!

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