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I spend a lot of my working life meeting with leaders and managers from a wide array of organisations. One thing that strikes me is that regardless of the industry or sector, many of the challenges they face are remarkably similar. Time and again, I hear people express frustration with how busy they are, and how they are struggling to get around to the important (but not urgent) tasks that they know deep down could have a catalytic effect on their productivity.

One of the most common symptoms of this is doing tasks your direct reports could, and probably should be doing. You tell yourself that no one else will do it as well as you and in any case, it will take longer to train someone up than it takes you to do it yourself… If this sounds like you, I suggest that you take an honest look at yourself and ask why you aren’t delegating more.

There are four main reasons why many managers and leaders don’t delegate. Do any of the following apply to you?

1. You don’t have time to train others
2. They won’t do it as well as you
3. You enjoy it and therefore don’t want to let it go
4. You don’t want to make yourself redundant

Let’s address each of these in turn:

You don’t have time to train others.

Ok so when viewed from a short-term perspective, this appears a valid point. However, let’s explore the following simple scenario: consider a task which takes you 30 minutes a week. Assume it takes you an hour to train someone else, and to be sure they understand it properly you watch them for another hour the following week. Over those two weeks what previously took you an hour has taken you two. But what about over the following two weeks? It doesn’t cost you any time at all, so after four weeks, you’re even. After that you’re gaining 30 minutes back every week.

They won’t do it as well as you

Is this a valid concern? Let’s consider how you approached the task when you began it. I expect you gave it a good go, and I bet over time you improved how you approached it to make sure it took you less time. In addition to that, the quality of what you now deliver is much better than when you first took the task on. Right? In other words, there is always a learning curve. So, make sure that you train and coach the person to whom you delegate the task effectively. Explain not only what to do, but why you do it the way you do. If you coach them well there is no reason why they shouldn’t do it as well as you and be humble enough to admit that they might actually come up with a better way of doing it in time. After all, that’s why they’re doing their job, not yours. They’re better at it than you, aren’t they?

You enjoy it and don’t want to let it go

Well done on being honest! I think many of us have our favourite activities which we hold on to, just because we enjoy them. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of those tasks you can complete quickly so it gives you a sense of accomplishment. I think for many managers and leaders, this feeds a natural desire to feel they’re achieving things. As we become more senior in organisations, one of the things we lose is a daily sense of accomplishment. However, that’s exactly the point of being a senior manager or leader. You’re supposed to be working on the more strategic projects. Recalibrate your expectations and learn to reward yourself for the interim achievements which are steps towards a bigger goal. In the end this will give you far greater satisfaction.

You don’t want to make yourself redundant

I find this one of the more difficult excuses to find credible, but for some this is a genuine fear: If I keep delegating the things I do, I might find that I’m no longer needed. The first thing I say to someone who believes this is that by making themselves irreplaceable, they are also unpromotable. And what do you do when you go on holiday? Do you spend all your time anxiously checking your emails? Don’t answer that, by the way. I think I already know the answer. The reality of delegating your regular tasks to others is you make your life easier as well as developing your team and helping with succession planning. These regular transactional tasks are the things which are keeping you away from the strategic, transformational projects which you struggle to make time for.

So there you have it. No excuses for not delegating? I thought so!

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