4 Self-Defeating Excuses that Prevent You From Delegating

“If you want something done right, do it yourself!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a client say this (or something very close to it), I would be one wealthy woman! While on the surface, this statement sounds like the kind of “take the bull by the horns” sort of self-reliance that many of us admire, the reality is that if you are a leader, this sort of approach could lead to your eventual demise.

Although delegation is a critical skill for leaders, my experience in coaching hundreds of executives across the years has shown that it is a behavior with which many leaders struggle.

But why?

Here are some of the common excuses I hear that prevent people from delegating, along with my rebuttals to these arguments:
1. “ I don’t have time”

People who make this argument express that delegating a task to an employee, checking in on progress, reviewing the person’s output, providing feedback, and having that person (potentially) do it again to correct any errors is too time-consuming. As a result, it is easier to just do it themselves.

Rebuttal: While delegating a task the first time around can be time-consuming, and you probably shouldn’t choose to do it when you have a tight timeline, the fact is that in the long run, delegating will actually save you time. The better trained your team is (as a result of having practice with delegated activities), the more you can off-load onto them. And, this will give you more time to spend on higher impact activities. So bite the bullet, and take the time to allow them to learn new skills through delegation.

2. “I can do it better”

Some leaders who have high needs for control or perfection can be reluctant to delegate for fear that the work product they get back won’t come out exactly the same as they would do it. Instead of risking this (guaranteed) outcome, they opt to do it themselves.

Rebuttal: If you’re a strong leader, you should have composed a team of people who have diverse talents and skills. As a result, you should actually respect your people enough to want to see their approach, and perhaps learn from it. Assuming that your way is the only way to accomplish an objective is likely to squelch their creativity and limit the opportunities for your horizons to be expanded.

3. “I don’t have anyone to delegate to.”

In this case, I am not talking about people who literally have no one to delegate to. Instead, I am talking about the cases of those leaders who suggest that their team lacks bench strength, and as a result, there is no one up to completing the task at hand.

Rebuttal: While this may be true in some instances, it is your job as a leader to develop your team. So, your goal should be to (a) coach the people on your team by giving them stretch assignments and/or (b) deal with those who (after being coached) are showing that they are unable to fulfill the demands of the job by repositioning them or letting them go.  If you feel that you don’t have time for this, review excuse #1.

4. “I don’t want to over-burden them.”

I often hear this argument from well-meaning and compassionate leaders who, instead of asking their team to do more, would rather fall on the sword and take on everything for themselves.

Rebuttal: While this is a noble sentiment (and I’m not suggesting that you become the sort of leader who delegates everything then sits back with your feet on your desk), it may actually be holding your people back. If there are people on your team who actually want to grow into bigger jobs with more responsibility, then they will need to figure out how to prioritize, manage their time, and juggle multiple tasks. Plus, my experience has been that if you are burning the candle at both ends, but encouraging others to live perfectly balanced lives, your employees will judge expectations based on your actions as opposed to your words. In other words, they often conclude that their boss expects the same dedication and long hours that she or he is putting in, and as a result, they end up working hard anyhow. So, spread the wealth and follow the adage “many hands make light work.”

To close, consider this wise quote from legendary leadership expert, Stephen Covey, “People and organizations don’t grow much without delegation and completed staff work because they are confined to the capacities of the boss and reflect both personal strengths and weaknesses.”

Are you limiting yourself and your organization by your unwillingness to delegate? Delegate, and enjoy the contributions of everyone on your team.

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