Why is delegating so hard?

by | Dec 4, 2017

I’m a control freak. It’s not something that I hide, it’s out in the open. It leads to no end of frustration on my part, and the tendency to keep everything close and do everything myself.

Except I don’t. I’m not saying that I’m the world’s greatest delegator (you did hear the bit about control freak, right?), but when my business started to grow and I was overwhelmed with work and the feeling of dread that enveloped me as I struggled to make any impression on my to do list, I realised that getting other people to do stuff was essential. It doesn’t make it easier, but the discomfort felt when delegating is easier to manage than the feeling of powerlessness.

There are plenty of reasons people use to justify not delegating work, along with a host of reasons they don’t even vocalise.

External justification:
“I don’t have the time”
“I can do it better myself”
“My team aren’t skilled enough”
“If I don’t do this, what do I do? They won’t need me anymore”

Internal justification:
“I don’t want to stop doing what I love, I don’t want to be a manager.”
“Why should x get the credit for this.”
“If I don’t do it, I won’t know what’s going on.”

Like anything we do in our work life, delegation is a skill that needs to be learnt and even though for some people it comes easier than others, it still needs to be practised.

What can we do to start becoming a proficient delegator?

The first step is to acknowledge the main excuse we use for not delegating and to work it through. For most people this will be lack of time. It’s a perfectly reasonable excuse – you’re so busy doing everything, you just don’t have the time to pass anything over. So, let’s start small; keep a diary of everything (and I mean everything) you do over the course of a week. It can be written on post-it notes or a fag packet, it doesn’t matter, and don’t bother logging time. What we want to see is the work that is taking your attention.

At the end of the week split the tasks up into broad categories like ‘client work’, ‘Finance’, ‘Admin’, ‘Marketing’. The groups will be either client focused or back-end. Avoid starting with the client projects, because it’s unlikely a reluctant delegator will find anything here they are prepared to part with. Start with a simpler group like finance.

Could any of these tasks go to your accountant? Do you have a bookkeeper? Can they do the invoicing or chase overdue payments? Look at anything that doesn’t need much explanation (which is why you should avoid looking at client work at this stage).

Don’t set the bar too high: you’re not looking to clear out your to do list completely, you’re looking to trim it a little, so passing over a couple of jobs from each group will be a good enough.

Next comes the hard bit – passing them over. Set aside time the time to talk and plan the conversation. Who are you going to delegate to? What is the task? Is it a one-off or is it ongoing? What are the objectives? What are the timescales? Invite questions and agree how further questions are to be asked. Set a time to follow up. And last of all confirm it in writing – and this is important – it’s important for the delegatee but it also helps set the delegation firmly in your head so you know what you have agreed to; you can’t go back then.

There’s no magic wand to wave to turn you into a master delegator, but starting in this way, splitting your tasks up and picking off the easy things, will build up your confidence and start to break down some of the (self-imposed) barriers. Once you’ve emptied out one of the groups, think about tackling the next one, picking out the easier tasks that need little to no explanation. And at all times keep your delegation objectives achievable.

To help you become great at delegation talk to PtG Business. We have the experience to get jobs done and are adept at working on delegated jobs, so you don’t need to worry. Talk to us today to see how we can support your business in whatever way you need.

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