Not delegating work: what’s your excuse?

The stress that many first time managers experience is rooted in the push-pull between:

  • Doing the comforting, old work that they have mastery of, and
  • Doing the intimidating, new work that they have no idea how to do.

They must do the latter, but can’t let go of the former. The latter gives them heartburn, and the former makes them feel safe.

Learning to do new things takes time. It takes energy and attention. It also takes a lot of brain power.

And if you’re doing stuff you already know how to do, you are not giving yourself the opportunity to master new things. The brain power required to accomplish old work is nowhere near as much as the brain power required to accomplish new stuff. Our brains might see both the new stuff and old stuff on your task list and be tempted to believe they should be treated equally in terms of effort and time. But our brains would be wrong.

Find out where you are on the delegation continuum. This is operating under the assumption that (1) you should be delegating, and (2) you know who you should be delegating to. If not, go talk to someone and get those clarifications first.

Delegation level: Control freak. About 80% of the stuff on your list to do is old work. Someone else can do it or learn it. You can teach them! Take the time to teach – it will be worth it in the end because – look at the list! – you have NEW THINGS you must learn, and you need a lot of time and brain energy for that.

Delegation level: Wishy-washy. About 50% of the stuff on your list is old work. Why just 50%? Why not all of it? I can hear all the reasons… I have heard all the reasons. Go set the wheels in motion now to get those off you plate in a systematic way with set dates of transition.

Delegation level: Master. About 20% or less of the stuff you have to do is old work. Nice job! Guess what. Revisit in 3 months. As you gain mastery in new skills, you might find yourself edging into the other categories. Keep growing, keep delegating, keep learning.

Excuse #1. I don’t have time to teach it, and besides, it’s just easier if I take care of it since I’m more efficient.

[Time gained over the long haul] >>> [How long it takes to teach it]

No brainer. This is a matter of prioritization. Go schedule the training.

Excuse #2. No one is competent enough to get up to speed on this.

Wasn’t there a time you weren’t competent enough? You learned. So can someone else. They will learn in a different way, perhaps at a different pace. And frankly, it might not be any of your business how they learn it, as long as they can and do. If they get the same results using a different methodology? Also not your business. Let it go. You’ve got other stuff to master!

Excuse #3. These are my relationships, and I can’t just hand them over.

So don’t hand them over. Manage the training and transition so that the other person can build their own relationships with those same individuals. You keep yours, they build theirs. In fact, I’m sure those people whose relationships you want to protect so fiercely wouldn’t mind a friendly call from you next month, after you’ve effectively delegated the work. Nice management, there.

No more excuses. Go help someone else learn new things! You can give others the opportunities you had for development and mastery, while gaining more of your own.

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