The Delegation Dilemma

Posted by Joseph Sherren on September 11, 2013

The solution for managers who feel stressed and overworked may just be the need to brush up on effective delegation skills. Delegation is an ideal way to develop employees’ talents and abilities while allowing you to work on important tasks.

So why are managers reluctant to delegate? Here are five common reasons:

1) My people are too busy already: What are they busy doing? Menial tasks? Make sure they are working on value-added activities. Think of delegating as giving them work that will foster their development.

2) My boss told me to do it: No, your boss told you to get it done and does not expect you to do it yourself. A busy leader’s responsibilities always exceed their ability to do everything personally. Delegation is the only option.

3) I can do it better (or faster) than anyone else: You can’t expect a team member to do a task as well as you do, initially. With time, your employees will improve. Until then, accept a result different than your perception of perfection.

4) Force of habit: Habits can be broken. Every day, spend 15 minutes training someone to take over one of your responsibilities.

5) It doesn’t feel good dumping jobs onto others: You’re not dumping, you’re developing their skills. As long as you assess an employee’s current workload and competency level, and as long as you delegate fairly, it will not be a burden for anyone truly looking to grow and develop.

Richard Branson, well known for giving staff freedom in the execution of their responsibilities, was asked: How were you able to create a culture of people performing their duties with minimum supervision while giving them total autonomy?

He responded: “One of the key skills I learned as a young businessman was the power of delegation. That made it necessary to bring in strong managers… which allowed me to focus on our newest ideas, projects, and on finding the next business to start.”

Branson added, “My ability to listen and realize when other’s ideas are better than my own, has helped me attract and retain excellent people. If I set challenges, encourage people and create a dynamic environment, I find that people will strive to do their best.”

An important aspect of effective delegation is to minimize instruction on how to do something — focus more on outcomes. Managers who give staff the freedom to execute a job using their own thinking will be surprised at how they usually find more effective ways to get the task done.

I asked Kevin Murphy, who owns and manages numerous companies, restaurants and hotels, how he is able to get everything done that needs to get done.

He articulated what other successful business people have said: “I can’t do everything myself, so the first thing is to hire the right people. However, keeping good people engaged is hard, so I also need to let them grow. The only way to grow is to be building skills and taking on more responsibility.”

Then Kevin elaborated: “When people are learning and growing they will make mistakes. But I realize that a career of no mistakes is no career at all. So I ask them thoughtful probing questions which gets them to think. Doing this mitigates the risk and consequences of those mistakes.”

The bottom line — delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills while helping others grow and reach their full potential. Next column I will address tools effective delegators use.

My question for managers this week: “Are you taking the time to assess the individuals who are your competent and most reliable employees so you can truly delegate real responsibilities – not just assign tasks?”

Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF, Canada’s Leadership Effectiveness Expert. His next management development program is Sept. 12-13 at Dalvay By The Sea. Contact Gateway by Sept. 10, mention this column and receive an additional discount on registration. (902) 629-6699 or

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