Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Today's Question: Why Do We Have a Problem with Delegation?

No matter where you are in your career, you're probably struggling with (or have struggled with) finding the right balance of delegation.

When you're cutting your teeth at the start of a career, you're trying to accomplish everything, be an invaluable part of the your team and sometimes have a problem saying "no." You want to take on the world, even if you're challenged by both physical and mental limitations...the last thing you want to do is admit that you might need some help--and delegating the project to someone else seems like it's more work than it's worth. Oftentimes, I hear from team members that "explaining a project to an intern will take more time than if I just do it myself."

As your career matures, sometimes managers fall into the trap of delgating too much! Instead of taking on the work as a team, they have the tendency to assign the majority of tasks to more junior-level professionals. They have a hard time finding balance between the activities that others can manage and which ones they still need to remain "hands-on" with...although not always spoken "it's not my job" tends to be written all over their face.

Here are a few steps to help balance the right amount of delegation:
1. Look in the mirror. Decide where and how you need to get involved with projects and understand that you can only accomplish a limited amount of work in a certain amount of time. Also, determine the reasonable amount of involvement on your part.

2. Evaluate your resources. Make sure that each team member is used to their fullest capacity and help capitalize on his/her strengths. If you need to delegate tasks, make sure you are aligning the needs with the natural talents of the individual.

3. Communicate frequently with your team. Remember, you're all working towards a common goal--so if you've called in additional resources, make sure your communicate the expectations and deadlines for the project. If the project requires an extended amount of time, have check-in milestones built into the timeline.

Remember, delegation is necessary in both your personal and professional life, so you better embrace it!


  1. You nailed it. If there is one thing I learned at the Navy’s Officer Candidate School was to empower those you work with. Communication is key but also realizing what is important and what is urgent... They are not always the same thing but some of the time they are. Part of leadership is knowing the difference

  2. Krista, you're so right. Over delegation feels like a recipe for failure, especially on the delegatee end.