5 Times When You Should Not Delegate

While delegation is important, it’s just as important to know when you should not delegate.  We all know that to move up, we have to give up certain jobs, and train others to do them.  Delegation is an essential skill for leaders.

But delegating to the wrong person, or delegating the wrong task is a big mistake that can undermine your leadership, and lead to disaster.

Here are five times when you should not delegate:

  1. When it’s a job only the leader does
  2. When the person isn’t the right personality fit
  3. When the job has to be done in a very specific way
  4. When it takes longer to explain than to do
  5. When it’s a core part of your job description

 When it’s a job only the leader does

There are some jobs that only the leader does.

Here are some examples:

  • Having tough talks with under performers
  • Firing people
  • Setting vision and direction
  • Taking responsibility for failures

Sometimes the leader chooses to delegate some of these tasks, and things go badly awry.

I remember once a leader who hated conflict, so delegated discipline and firing to subordinates.

You can imagine the effect this had on the people around him.  He was disrespected and disliked.

So it is with setting overall direction and vision.  Any wise leader knows that input is critical in goal setting, and also knows that the ultimate choice of direction and goals belongs to them.

If you come across a job that only the leader does, you know this is a time when you should not delegate.

The Professional Leadership Institute provides training on How to Delegate and offers a free preview.

When the person isn’t the right personality fit

Often, we believe that we can teach any person to do any job.

However, this isn’t true!  Wise leaders delegate to people who are naturally suited to win in the role.

For example, if you need someone to complete a weekly work schedule, you’re looking for someone who has the natural ability to organize.  The ideal person for this job likes working with detail.  While they don’t know what to do yet, they can learn quickly because they have a personality that enjoys working with detail.

Once you discover the magic of assigning work based on personality type, you will grow quickly in your leadership ability.

If you’d like to write a DISC Personalities assessment, you can do that here for free, plus receive a downloadable booklet explaining your strengths and weaknesses, and those of the people around you.  Find it here:

DISC Personalities™ Assessment

When the job has to be done in a very specific way

Training is a big part of delegation.  So, naturally people are going to make mistakes along the way.  This is normal, and to be expected.

However, there are times when a job needs to be done exactly right.  There is no wiggle room, and there is no time to train for the future.

For instance, imagine there’s a disaster with a major customer.  Their shipment is missing, they’re angry about it, and someone needs to talk them off the ledge.

This is a time when you should not delegate.  If the job isn’t done exactly the right way, it will make everything worse.  While it is an opportunity for training (they watch while you make the call) it’s not a good idea to delegate a job that needs your special touch.

Another example of this is when a very specific skillset is needed to pull the job off.

Let’s say a piece of delicate machinery is broken, and you know how to fix it.  If you want to keep things operating smoothly, fix it yourself.  Don’t delegate that job, but instead use it as an opportunity for training.  In this case, they watch while you do the job.

Once your trainee has watched you complete the job, you’ve done the job together, and you’ve watched them do the job well, then you’re ready to delegate sensitive jobs in the future.

When it takes longer to explain than to do

Let’s face it.  There are times when it’s a lot simpler to quickly do the job yourself than to go through the process of explaining what needs happen and how exactly to do it.  In these cases, do the job yourself.

This is especially true when It’s a job that doesn’t repeat. If you can do it quickly, but have to do it every day, by all means train someone to do it, and then delegate the job away.  But if the job is a one-time event that you know how to do, get it done and move on.  This is a time when you should not delegate.

On the other hand, this isn’t true when it’s a job that your employee really needs to learn.  If it’s something that you know you shouldn’t be spending time on, take the time to teach your team member so that they can grow, and you can move on to other things.

When it’s a core part of your job description

It goes without saying that if the task is clearly on your job description and everyone knows it, this is a time when you should not delegate!

Trying to simply get rid of work you’d rather not do isn’t really delegation.  Abdication is a better word for it.  Like when a king renounces his throne and walks away.

If it’s your job, and it’s on your job description, don’t delegate it away!

In summary:

While delegation is a key skill for any leader, there are times when you should not delegate.  If you do, the job can go wrong and turn into a disaster.  Here are five times when you should not delegate:

  1. When it’s a job only the leader does
  2. When the person isn’t the right personality fit
  3. When the job has to be done in a very specific way
  4. When it takes longer to explain than to do
  5. When it’s a core part of your job description

Trevor Throness head shot 2019

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here: https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-Skills-Dramatically-Performance/dp/1632651068

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