Delegation is the assignment of any responsibility or authority to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities. It is one of the core concepts of management leadership.
Simple, right? But when it comes to practical application, it is not always that simple for majority of people including team members, managers or senior executives. A 2013 executive coaching survey, conducted by Stanford University, found that 35% of chief executives say delegating is something that they need to improve, while 37% said they’re trying to improve these skills.
Delegation of authority is very important to any organization as it empowers employees or team members. Many of us know the benefits of delegating and we do also, despite that, delegating is one of the most challenging aspects of leadership. It is often misunderstood for transfer of accountability or self-doubt.
Let’s understand some barriers associated with managers/leaders and individuals when it comes to delegation and probable solutions that might help take down these barriers.
Barriers Manager/Leads Face in Delegating Tasks:
1) Loss of Control
Problem: It is often feared that delegating a task means you lose control as someone else is doing the task for which you are responsible. It is very likely that as a manager/leader you think that only you can do this task better.
Solution: As a leader or manager you should focus on the bigger picture and not bogged down by daily tasks. You should communicate more with the person performing the task so that you are aware of the progress. Provide timely feedback for what went well and what didn’t work and where improvements can be done. You not working on the task doesn’t mean you are not accountable for it as well. Being a lead or a manager, you only are accountable for all your tasks weather you do it or your team does it.
Remember, each person has different style of work that may not always match with your style of work. Be open to an individual style and focus on outcomes.
2) Not Enough Time to Mentor
Problem: One of the biggest factors in not delegating task is people believe that they don’t have that much time to explain everything to someone else. They consider it waste of time as it requires more efforts and instead of answering other person’s questions it’s better that they themselves finish the task.
Solution: A change in perspective is required here. As a leader/manager you should think for long-term benefits. You doing the task yourself can give you short term-benefit that you’ll quickly be able to get the task done. But, in long run this will become an overhead for you as you have to manage/lead and work on individual tasks as well. You investing some time to explain and make your team members learn will help you save a lot of time next time onwards. This is the time which you can utilize to focus better on your manager/leader responsibilities or tasks that cannot be delegated.
3) Not Enough Team Capability
Problem: Some managers/leaders resist delegation saying that their team is not capable or they have lack of confidence in team for the skill-set required for tasks to be delegated.
Solution: Take some time to understand the strengths and skills of each of your team member and then delegate work accordingly to ensure best outcome. This not only helps you, but it also motivates employees and increases productivity which ultimately benefits business.
4) Don’t Know How to Delegate
Problem: The focus of the manager/leader is stuck in micromanaging and they fail to visualize the bigger picture thereby unable to set clear expectations while delegating work. This leaves employees confused and frustrated at work.
Solution: Focus more on outcomes. Encourage new ideas and approaches to quickly achieve the goals. Give your employees the chance to take ownership of tasks and authority enough to work as per set expectations. This way, over the time, they will be able to execute delegated tasks with minimum supervision while meeting the expected outcomes.
Barriers People Have Accepting the Delegated Tasks:
1) Not Their Responsibility
Problem: In a team we always have divided responsibilities. People often hesitate to step in each other’s work considering that it might offend someone, which is fair enough and a good practice too. But it becomes a problem if it blocks you from accepting delegated tasks/responsibilities every time.
Solution: As a manager/leader you should make your team understand the concepts of teamwork. A good team not only divides the responsibilities but also encourages team members to step up in sharing a responsibility when needed. It also helps in acknowledging the importance of the task that is being delegated and what benefits it will add to the project, the team or the individuals.
Teamwork is very crucial to a project’s success and a supportive culture would always ensure high work spirit.
2) Lack of Context
Problem: It’s a belief that stepping into someone else’s shoes might create problems while not having a complete or clear picture. Team members also fear the same, especially in cases where other team members have already worked on the tasks that are being delegated.
Solution: As a manager/leader you should clearly set the context of the task in detail. Introduce the team members who worked previously on the task so that all queries can be discussed well. Set clear expectations on the work style to follow while completing the task.
3) Problem with Authority
Problem: Some people have problem with authority and they tend to not work when someone from the team delegates the task instead of manager/leader. In other cases, even when the task is being delegated by manager/leader, since the ownership/accountability of the task stays with the manager/leader, it creates a problem.
Solution: Ensure the delegation happens the right way. As a manager/leader, be present in the discussions whenever required and in other cases, a confirmation email from your end on the top of your team member’s email will help confirm the delegation. In certain cases, it often requires that only a certain part of the task is delegated and that some other team members or manager/lead themselves takes care for the remaining part of the task. In such scenarios, it becomes very important to define clear work boundaries and expectation for everyone involved in completing that task.
Problem: There are many fears in accepting a task such as fear of being a scapegoat, fear of failure, not having enough experience, etc.
Solution: Addressing these emotional concerns are very important to have a productive team. Ensure that your words and actions communicate things the right way and that you’ll be available to review task progress. Share correct feedback on timely basis. Properly plan and delegate tasks based on your team member’s skills. And allow some room for mistakes or failures by planning for them. This will help them gain confidence.
The key things to remember in delegation are:
- Delegating doesn’t offload the accountability
- Ensure that your team members know that they can look for you in case of any questions or concerns
- Delegation takes time initially to plan and make other team member(s) understand, but it increases productivity eventually for both your team and you
- Work done with a different approach is not bad
Delegation is a long-term strategy. With proper planning, clear communication and appreciative approach you can add so much value to your work, team and to your individual growth. Download this simple tool to start practicing delegation. Choose either mind map or MS excel template, whichever you’re comfortable with!