Delegation Myths and Strategies

Judith Henry

Delegation builds people, trust and confidence. It is a powerful developmental tool and an important time management skill. Yet, if delegating has these advantages, why is it so hard for leaders? I find leaders do not delegate because of some deep-seated myths about delegation or because they do not know what to do and what to avoid.

Myth 1—Delegating decreases my visibility: Once I delegate, I will no longer be part of the decision making process. I will be less visible to my leader.

Reality: Delegation frees up your time to focus on more relevant and strategic matters making you more visible to your leader and reflect your ability to plan long-term.

Myth 2—Working hard makes a leader seem important: If I am always busy then I am more effective and therefore more necessary.

Reality: You must differentiate between important work and "busy work." Working hard is not necessarily the same thing as working effectively. Attaining results means planning. It also means having the best people assigned to the appropriate tasks.

Myth 3—There is some security in being irreplaceable: If I am the only person who can do a particular job, then I will never be separated from my company.

Reality: If we cannot be replaced, how can we be promoted? Leaders who retain all information and decision making for themselves also limit themselves on their own career opportunities.

Once you have exploded these myths, you still need to consider the Dos and Don’ts of delegating.

  • Specify goals to provide clarification, direction and importance. Help the employee establish the priority of the project.
  • Provide training and coaching.
  • Grant authority.
  • Establish controls. Clarify what circumstances require your immediate notification.
  • Be a resource. Be generous with your knowledge and your access to information and people.
  • Accept mistakes.
  • Solve problems together.
  • Give credit where credit is due even if the task is just a small part of a big project.
  • Hover. It wastes your time and can result in digression.
  • Abdicate your own accountability. It leaves the employee at risk.
  • Snatch the assignment back. While tempting, if things are not going well, you undermine your intent in the process.
  • Do the work yourself. This instantly sabotages the employee initiative to complete the assignment.
  • Double delegate! Do not delegate the same task to two people. You will not be assured of getting good results. You will, however, be twice as sure of building resentment.
  • No Dumping Allowed! That is what you are doing if you only delegate unpleasant tasks. You will soon find you have them back as your employees finds ways to avoid them.