The 6 Obstacles That Keep Us From Delegating

Most executives have vastly more to do in a given week than can be accomplished.   When you’re an hourly worker, you don’t have to think about delegation.  Your life is relatively easy.  But when you’re the boss and the discretionary projects you could tackle seem endless) never mind the urgent things that must be done every day to keep the wheels on the bus) delegation moves to the front of the queue.

It’s critical and vital that you learn to do it well.

In this article I’m going to explore the obstacles that keep us from becoming effective delegators and moving up in our responsibilities and effectiveness.

Spot the obstacle you’re dealing with and make a plan to move past it.


Obstacle #1: No one can do it as well as I can

Probably this is true.  How could they do it as well as you do.  They’ve never done it before.  You’re an expert because you’ve been doing this for awhile.

But you can’t do everything.  Even if you are the best at every single job in the business (which isn’t true) you still need to find a way to free up your time so you can work on higher return tasks.

Start with people where they are, not where you wish they were.

Look for people who display the raw talent to do the job you need to give away.  Then be patient and start passing off tasks one at a time.


Obstacle #2: If someone else does it my value in the organization will decrease

This is both an obstacle and a myth.

It’s an obstacle because if you actually believe it, you’ll never want to give anything away.  This scarcity mentality will hobble you throughout your career, and you must divest yourself of it as soon as you can.

It’s a myth because it couldn’t be less true.  The truth of the matter is that people who can delegate effectively and build up talent in the organization are rare finds.  These people are highly valued.

There isn’t an organization anywhere that doesn’t want more and better talent.  If you’re a person who can develop people, your stock will increase dramatically.


Obstacle #3: It’s quicker and easier to do it myself

This is certainly true.  It’s also very short-term thinking.

Picture a parent.  Is it quicker and easier for the parent to do the dishes after dinner?  Undoubtedly, yes.  Is it quicker and easier for the parent to vacuum the house?  Of course!

Now let’s move into the future.  Does the parent want to be doing the dishes in ten years?  Does the parent want to do all the vacuuming forever?  Of course not!

The parent (and the boss) needs to move past this level of thinking and get to the stage where they invest into the future by taking more time now to save more time later.

Like throwing a new log on a campfire – the fire will initially burn lower – but when the new log catches, the fire will roar to new heights.


Obstacle #4: It’s my job to lead by example and do every task

I love your heart in this.  I love that you want to set an example, and you’re partially right.  The leader should be prepared to do any task, because all jobs are important, and no one is above doing anything.  However, the leader engages in these tasks as a symbol, not as a way to speed things along.

The restaurant manager rolls up her sleeves to do a turn in the dish pit to set the example for everyone.  But this isn’t their long-term job and shouldn’t become so.

The boss needs to realize that when they do low return tasks, they are ignoring jobs that only they can do.  Only they will search for new, amazing talent to add to the team.  Only the boss will have tough talks with under performers.  Only the boss will envision an exciting future for the business.

This will not happen if the boss spends all her time in the dish pit.


Obstacle #5: I tried delegating before and it was a disaster

If this is your obstacle, you probably weren’t delegating at all. Instead, you were abdicating.  Big difference.

Abdication is when the king gives up his crown and walks away from his throne, never to worry about it again.

In a business this happens when you pawn a task off on a person without using a process.  You don’t hold their hand throughout, making sure they are coached and challenged along the way.

Delegation is when you choose the right person for the job, train them to do it well, monitor their progress as they do it on their own, and provide coaching along the way.

The chances of real delegation turning into a disaster are slim.  The chances of abdication going off the rails are very high.


Obstacle #6: I have no one to delegate to

This can be a real concern, especially when you’re in a very small business.  The first step is to set a target for the business so that you can bring on another person to begin sharing work tasks with.

You may be in a department of a larger business and have no one to delegate to.  This requires you making a business case to your bosses for why more people in your area would lead to higher revenues and profits.

Maybe though you have a team around you, and no one has the capacity to do what you need done.

In this case you should ‘change the people or change the people.’  Find the right person to round out the team.

Check out this article in Harvard Business Review for more:


In Summary

Here are the six obstacles that keep us from delegating.  Choose the one that has been holding you back and develop a plan to fix it.

  1. No one can do it as well as I can
  2. If someone else does it my value in the organization will decrease
  3. It’s quicker and easier to do it myself
  4. It’s my job to lead by example and do every task
  5. I tried delegating before and it was a disaster
  6. I have no one to delegate to

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