There’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep control over projects and minimize room for failure. Why do managers resist delegating?
“They’re not ready.”
This is a typical reason leaders give to keep doing the work themselves instead of letting someone else take it on. What they should be asking is, what would it take for them to be ready? Also, what are they ready for now? In other words, even if they aren’t ready to take on the whole project, what aspect of it could you let them take responsibility for? And what do you need to do as a leader to get them ready to take on more? This is an opportunity for you to coach and mentor and facilitate learning for your team members who, more than likely, crave growth opportunities.
“We can’t afford a mistake.”
This is the fear that drives managers to hover over their employees and make them feel useless. Of course, there is always a risk of failure or a mistake, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. Ask yourself: when you’re away from the office, can your employees get things done without you? If not, this is a wake-up call for you to empower your team.
“They won’t do it as well.”
This is another reason for managers to do the work themselves instead of trusting others to do it. Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work. You never know, maybe they’ll even do a better job than you! This may be yet another fear that drives you to keep the work to yourself. But, in the end, it is better for you, for the company, and for the individual for them to do better work than you. Now you can stick to leading and growing your own skills.
“I don’t have time.”
Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse yet it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. It’s often quicker for an experienced person to do something him or herself, but if you keep doing it yourself, you’ll have to keep doing it. That’s where the overwork comes in: if you do the work and are responsible for leading the team, you will quickly run out of time. In other words, you don’t have time not to delegate. It may take more time initially to train someone, but the savings will begin to show up very quickly.
“One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading.” Jesse Sostrin states in To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well, in Harvard Business Review. As a leader, if you keep doing the work, you will reach your output capacity quickly. If you have a team of people who contribute to the output, you can scale and have much greater impact. The reason for teams to exist is to increase productivity. In high-performing teams, each team member does what he or she does best and relies on others to contribute in different ways. Effective leaders facilitate this process.