6 Factors that could come in your way of delegating work effectively

December 18th, 2020 | By Madhu

As a leadership coach, one of the challenges that I help leaders address is their inability to delegate responsibility, i.e delegate work effectively. This challenge is often reflected in different ways by different leaders.

Here are some of the concerns I often get to address from leaders on Delegating their responsibilities

  • I do not want to micromanage my team
  • I want to do bigger things, if only my team could free me
  • I do not want to keep doing all the work, I wish I had the right resources
  • No one is willing up to take responsibility, all just to do their bits
  • I am struggling to meet deadlines, I do not have enough support

Delegation is a challenge, not just for people who have stepped into leadership, but also for leaders who have been working with people over years.

When I invite leaders to reflect on their journey, I understand that all have moved to leadership due to their individual contribution, hard work, commitment, skills, technical knowledge, subject matter expertise, ability to work in a team and so on. However, things change when they move up. There are a bunch of people with different behaviours and strengths reporting that need to be led, in addition, there is increased workload, shorter delivery timelines and increased expectation from stakeholders.

The leader either delegates effectively or struggles. The struggle is just not for the leader, but also for the members of the team. If not delegated effectively, the team starts to feel that they are being underutilised, not valued, not trusted, etc. They either perform to meet the minimum requirements, become redundant or move out.

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Here are 6 Factors that could come in your way of delegating work effectively

While there are so many resources that will give you tips on how to delegate effectively, What I am trying to focus here is some of the deeper factors that play in a leader’s mind, which acts as a barrier to delegate effectively. These factors are not universal, but are some common things I have noticed in my work

1. Loss of Relevance:

I am always sought by my stakeholders, if someone else steps up, I will lose my relevance. A senior leader with a large b2b organisation, always ensured that he is the only contact point for his customers, he would not want any of his team members to engage with the customer. This then manifested in him not including the team members in important customer meetings. The team ended up doing only what is sought out of them and were unaware of their customer needs. This showed up in their work.

2. Setting the expectation:

Many times, leaders struggle to acknowledge that the resources available to them are not as per their expectation. This could be due to poor recruiting, budget constraints, different behavioural strengths, or lack of appropriate resources in the marketplace. Leaders tend not to spend enough energy to understand the strength of each member, they eventually delegate them with tasks that they may not be naturally inclined to. This could leave both the leader and the team member frustrated, as the output is not as expected.

3. Anxiety about quality:

Some leaders remain anxious as to what is happening to the work they have delegated. This manifests in the leader micromanaging the work and poking their nose at every stage. They would seek out frequent updates and intervene at every step. The team do not feel autonomous and even feel that their competence is not valued.

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4. Too much of me:

“If I did this work, I would have done it this way”. Some leaders fail to acknowledge that they are different ways of doing things. Sometimes, people are not allowed to play with their creativity. The leader may not stimulate or appreciate new thinking or new ways of doing work. They are obsessed with their own process and thoughts. When the team does not adhere to this, the leader ends up doing the work themselves.

5. Power and Authority:

Am I still in control or is the team or an individual in the team taking over. Irrespective of the work that people deliver, some leaders tend to add his or her bit to prove that they are in control. In some cases, withholding of information can also be seen, leaving the team grappling with the work or making them dependent on the leader

6. Inspiration:

Some leaders struggle or do not know how to inspire their team, as a result, the team plays at a suboptimal level. This makes the leader get stuck. Team members bring in accountability and ownership when the leader listens actively, provides autonomy, accepts mistakes, focuses on the learnings, and shows support.

While I have penned down a few factors, there could be different factors why leaders are not able to delegate. I invite leaders to spend some time reflecting on what is happening within them. Happy Reflecting!

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
– Dwight Eisenhower, 34th U.S. President

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Madhu Kanna - Certified Executive Coach | Leadership coach

Madhu Kanna

I am a Certified Executive Coach and I work with leaders to help them play at their full potential!!

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