Here’s another great article by Andy Masters, Featured Speaker at August 23rd showcase.
Why We Should But Why we DON’T
by Andy Masters
Most of us are aware of the positives from delegating—we’ve heard them before. In
theory, it’s a great concept: “Get other people to do your work for you…Awesome!” We also
know that, theoretically, we can get more done in less time if we delegate properly. The
results of not delegating include burnout, stress, and getting overwhelmed with mundane
tasks that distract us from our most important responsibilities. Yet, why is delegation one
of the most underutilized skills in organizations today? Why don’t we delegate more?
Delegation is actually a learned and applied skill. It takes an understanding of how to do it
correctly, and conscious focus to create a habit.
Whenever I present a program on delegation or time management, I always ask the
audience if they have ever said this to themselves: “If it?s going to get done right, and if it?s
going to get done on time—I might as well do it myself!” What’s amazing is that
approximately 99% of all attendees raise their hand. Everyone has said this to themselves
before. Why? Because that?s the way we?re wired. We all have a default mechanism which
causes us to fall back on doing everything ourselves, often subconsciously.
So, let me present this question to you: How many times in your life have you said
that phrase to yourself?: “If it?s going to get done right, and if it?s going to get done on
time—I might as well do it myself!”
0-49 That’s about normal.
50-99 You’ve got a problem.
Over 100+ Please attend the next Control Freaks Anonymous meeting in your area.
Now, this article isn’t about why we SHOULD. It’s about why we DON?T.
Here are the Top 4 reasons we rationalize not delegating:
1. “I don?t have anyone to delegate to.”
We often believe we don’t have anyone to delegate to. Certainly, if you don’t have
employees or a personal assistant, you may have stopped reading already. However—don’t
fret. Delegation, at its’ most basic level, is simply having someone help you. Help can also
come from peers, other departments, friends, interns, or even your children (please consult
the child labor laws in your state first). There are even examples of those who have mastered
the art of delegation enough that they can delegate…to their boss. Yes, the concept of
“managing your boss” has picked up steam in the last decade or so. Now this doesn’t
necessarily mean storming into their office, dropping a stack of reports on their desk and
threatening “Get these done by Friday or you?re fired!” (Don’t you wish) More subtly, it
could be asking for personal help with something they have more experience with,
requesting additional resources, or at least managing expectations in relation to other
projects you also have on your plate.
2. “I?ve tried to delegate and it doesn?t work. I?ve been burned before.”
You’re right. Something didn’t get done right or on time because you gave it to
someone else. You trusted someone, and they didn’t come through. Someone let you down.
Someone made you look bad. Got it. It’s happened to all of us.
But, here’s the key: Don’t make that an excuse to STOP DELEGATING FOR THE
REST OF YOUR LIFE. Here is a reality check: Will delegation ALWAYS work?….No, it
won?t! The key here is that, as a leader, you are still on top of what is happening with those
tasks, and follow-up on their progress. Don’t get burned. What, perhaps, could you have
done more effectively? Were you clear in exactly what was to be performed, and by when?
Did the person have the time, training, and resources to perform the task? Was it the right
person to delegate to? Did you follow-up before the deadline to double-check in case they
got off track? Delegation is a process, and the organized “delegator” doesn’t get burned.
3. “By the time I explained it to someone, I could have done it myself.”
Quite possibly, there are things that could take just a bit more time to explain to
someone else—the first time. However, if we think that way all the time, we WILL be the
only person that knows how to do everything—and we will stay in the trap of having to do
everything ourselves. But if we invest the time to delegate the first time, and that same or
related item arises again…wallah! It’s now a time saver from that point on.
The key to this method is the word “habit.” Using the above excuse rationalizes and
enhances the habit of doing everything yourself. Avoiding this excuse creates the habit of
delegating. Establish the pattern of delegating, especially on smaller or quicker tasks, to
create a habit. (Also see the “Disservice Theory” below.)
4. “I don?t want to „bother? someone else…they already have enough on their plate.”
I liken this “bothering someone” mentality to asking someone to buy something if
you are in sales, or even asking someone out on a date. Psychologically, there is a certain
uncomfortable side to delegating. We don’t want to seem as if we are pawning work off on
others. We don’t like giving people more work, especially if they, too, seem busy. However,
if we are truly overwhelmed, who do we really have to blame if we never even ask for help
in the first place? Who do we have to blame that we don’t have time for the important
projects that we should be focusing our time on? Delegation often has to do with pushing
ourselves outside our comfort zone, rather than “not feeling like asking” for help and
continuing the pattern of taking it all on ourselves.
The “Disservice” Theory
The next time you start a project where you think to yourself “This is a pretty big
project,” or “this is really important—I need to do this one myself,” consider this: You are
actually doing someone a disservice by not including them, by not allowing them to share in
the responsibility, and not allowing them to grow and develop so that they are a step closer
to taking on more responsibility in the future. Perhaps it is a new or younger member in
your organization, or an employee wanting to learn for future advancement, or even an
intern. If you at least “take them along for the ride” with you—next time, they can do more.
We all had mentors who took us along for the ride. That is how people learn. That is how
people grow. Don’t deny someone the opportunity to learn and grow because the
responsibility seemed “too important.” Take the time to include someone and share
Like anything else, these tips may not work every time, but give them a shot:
1.) “Can you help me? I really need your help.” The number one reason people
don’t get enough help is because they don’t ASK. Period. If you sincerely need help, and
sincerely ask someone using these magic words—nine times out of 10 they will respond.
2.) “When do you think you can get this done by?” Instead of setting deadlines or
imposing an order—ask someone when they can commit to getting the task done. First of
all, they will appreciate the gesture. They know their schedule and other commitments
better than you. But, if they are the ones who set their own deadline, there is an extra level
of accountability—and they are much more likely to adhere to the deadline.
3.) The FIRST thing you should do each morning is identify the 3, 5, or 7 items on
your “To-Do List” where at least some progress can be made by someone else. Ship those
items off to sea either in person or via email by asking for help right away. Then get on
with your day. A couple will get done, a couple more will at least make some progress, and
a couple others may not get any progress. Fine. That is much more progress than if you
never delegated any of those tasks at all. The key is that you are now making progress
during the day/week on 4 of those items while you spent NO time on them at all, allowing
you to make progress on more important items on your list simultaneously.
“A leader isn?t the person running around doing everything themselves. A leader is
someone who inspires others to achieve the goals of the organization as a team.”
Like anything else, delegation takes focus, and a concerted conscious effort
everyday—or we revert to our old habits. You have to WORK on being an excellent
“delegator.” Place a one-word post-it note on your PC to help create this habit everyday.
Bring someone along on that next big project. Look at your “To-Do List” and delegate 3, 4,
or 5 items before you do anything else. Then devote your time to your big picture goals–
and achieve MORE, in less time, with higher quality, and less stress.
You deserve vacation days without your cell phone going off, and you will be
amazed at what your organization can accomplish.
About the Author: Andy Masters has written 4 books, earned 4 degrees, and is a member of
the National Speakers Association (NSA). Andy presents positive and entertaining
programs on professional development and work-life balance topics.