Do You Delegate?

by Jo Anne Nelson on January 25, 2012

Do you delegate well? Most of the executives I work with do not. I know that I am challenged by it, and am curious why so many of us have a difficult time delegating effectively.

The most common reasons I hear are “They will not do a good job, they won’t do it quickly, I’ll have to edit or redo it. Might as well do it myself.”

Bottom line? We trust that we will do a better job, so we don’t pass it along.

The definition of delegate, according to, is “to commit (powers, functions, etc.) to another as agent or deputy.” In essence, we are saying that we trust someone else to act as we would. “I appoint you to act as my agent.”

But for teams that don’t perform at their full potential, team members don’t trust others enough to delegate. Or, they do delegate but repeatedly ask the same people. As a result, a portion of the team quickly becomes overwhelmed.

On high performance teams, team members trust that everyone is competent to do what they are being asked to do. If they don’t, they will coordinate and take action to build those skills, if they have time to do that.

Most importantly, they understand that if they don’t delegate, it will be impossible to focus on what’s important – the strategic issues – because they will be so busy doing day-to-day tasks and projects, they won’t have time.

How do we avoid this? Here are two crucial steps:

  • If I am going to delegate effectively, I need to take the time to prepare. What is it I need? What are the outcomes? What are the timelines? I need to make sure that both parties discuss, negotiate and align around these to make sure we have a mutual understanding of the goal and outcomes.
  • If what I receive back is not what I expected, I must give clarification or direction and ask for it to be redone. “Here is what you did well, here is what I need changed…” When we do this, we are clarifying our original request and teaching the other person how to achieve the outcomes we desire. What we are NOT doing is taking it on ourselves and making the changes.

If we don’t take these steps, we will stay in a constant state of overwhelm where the important trumps the crucial. And, we send the message to others that we don’t trust them enough to help. Both of which diminish mood and efficiency.

So, what can you delegate today?

Jo Anne Nelson

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