In last week’s blog post we talked about the importance of taking the time to sort through mounting piles of work to see what can be delegated to other team members. It’s easy for this critical step to get missed when you’re feeling pressure to complete a growing pile of work, however taking the time to go through it all will make a world of difference. Many leaders are surprised by the amount of work on their desk that can be handled by lower levels. Some of it may be busywork, manual-type of work, revising work that has already been done, or tasks that can be done with the experience and skills of a staff member. Once you’ve decided which tasks can be handled by other team members, you need to release control and allow others to take care of it for you.
Some leaders misunderstand the nature of delegation. They believe they can wash their hands of responsibilities when staff members are handed assignments that were originally on their own desk. The employee is now on their own to deal with the outcome, whether favourable or unfavourable. This abdication is not what delegation is about.
An organization still holds the leader responsible, regardless of whose hands actually performed the work. Leaders who try to dodge responsibility by pitching work to others soon experience a myriad of negative consequences, including distrust and disloyalty from their people.
Most delegation hesitancy lands on the other side of the control spectrum, where leaders are not willing to let go of control. As Jesse Sostrin, PhD, describes in HBR, overextension fuels an instinctive reaction to “protect” work. Leaders who keep the workload to themselves often believe that somehow the delegation of work reduces their importance, or at least how superiors perceive it.
Ironically, delegating work puts a leader’s control into action with decision-making, task coordination, and goal achievement. The more that work is reserved for leaders, the less of it actually gets done. This doesn’t reflect well on a leader’s state of control. Leaders who can be helped to see this are more able to break their control-clutching behaviour.
Another control-related reason leaders choose not to delegate is the perceived time and effort needed to train an employee or bring them up to speed. It seems too inconvenient or too remedial for someone at their level to do, and it feels too much like a sacrifice of control. Leaders who can deemphasize their sense of control and turn their attention to solving problems resist delegating less.
If you struggle with letting go and releasing control at work, I’m here to help you. Our leadership retreats may be exactly what you need – all programs are fully customizable, and will revolutionize the way you lead your team. Learning to delegate and release control will greatly reduce your stress levels and increase your satisfaction at work.