The Dangers of Delegation

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Ask any new manager, supervisor or leader about the challenges of the job and chances are delegation is on that list. That`s why you will find delegation in nearly every new supervisor workshop and in most books on leadership.

Right or wrong, promotions often happen because we were great at our previous job. It is those skills, behaviors and expertise that are being rewarded. So, naturally when we move to the next job, usually with increasingly responsibilities and more (or our first) direct reports, it is hard to stop doing those things we are best at (and were rewarded for).

With that promotion comes new responsibilities and an even-more packed calendar. And likely some version of this great advice: You can`t do it all yourself, you will have to delegate. Most leaders either heed this logical and practical advice or are driven to it by the sheer stress that comes with not being able to do everything.

When done correctly delegation is a powerful behavior; unfortunately, the reality is that far too often it becomes a painful process both for the delegator and those to whom work has been delegated.

All of this creates dangers that leaders must recognize. Once you recognize these dangers, you`ve taken the first step towards overcoming and/or avoiding these problems.

The Dangers

Not delegating enough. If you hold on to too much, you risk overburdening yourself and not giving others a chance to grow from new experiences.
Delegating too much. In addition to possibly overburdening others, delegating too much can lead to perceptions that you are uninterested, unavailable, detached or disinterested. If there are specific reasons (a special project, for example) why you must delegate more in the short or long term, make sure people know and understand this reasoning.
Delegating too fast. Delegating too fast could be that you are piling things on people too quickly (before they are ready), holding people responsible for tasks without making your expectations clear, or allowing them to develop the skills to be successful. Either way, this speed can cause major problems and contribute to poor results.
Delegating too late. If you wait until your plate is so full that you know you can`t complete everything, and then hastily give some tasks to other members of your team, you are dooming others to fail. And when they fail you confirm for yourself that If I want something done right, I need to do it myself.
Not delegating at all. There may be any number or reasons why someone doesn`t delegate. Sometimes it is a lack of skill in handing off tasks and responsibilities. More often it`s overconfidence, pride or perfectionism.
Having the wrong focus. When we delegate to help ourselves, we run the danger of the delegation being less than effective. Instead of focusing on ourselves, we must focus on helping the other person succeed.

The Solution

The solution is two-fold:

Find a balance of speed and amount of delegation.
Stop thinking of delegation as a way to delete items from your to-do or responsibility list.

Delegation should be considered as a developmental tool. In other words, delegation isn`t about dumping, it`s about development; it isn`t about you, it is about others.

Once you get your intention straight, that effective delegation is a true sharing of responsibility and provides an opportunity for others to grow their skills, you have taken a huge step toward avoiding all of the dangers listed above.

Before you move on to your next task, or read your next article, take a minute to reread the last two paragraphs. And then ask yourself where your balance is in how you currently delegate. Are you too fast or too slow in delegating? Are you delegating enough to too much?

Most importantly, reflect on your intention in delegation.

If you want to delegate for more effective results, put your focus and intention on developing others, rather than dumping things from your to-do list.

Potential Pointer: Effective delegation requires the right intention. As long as you keep the focus on yourself, your delegation will be less effective. When you focus instead on the other person, and how you can help him or her succeed with these new tasks, delegation will work better for everyone.

Author:

Kevin Eikenberry

The Dangers of Delegation

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