I have a theory about why so many managers are so bad at delegating. But first, let’s look at a few of the most common assumptions we make about poor delegators:
- They want to hoard power and get all the credit. It’s true that delegating is a bit risky – what if the person you delegate a task to does it better than you? But I think very few bad delegators fall into this category.
- They just don’t “get” the benefits of delegation. A small percentage of new managers never got the memo that said, “Your job now is to get results through other people, and you can’t do that without delegating effectively.” So the task of developing people never gets on their priority list.
- They believe nobody but them could possibly do the job right. There’s actually some merit to this belief because if we delegate a task to a person who can’t do it, that’s abdication of responsibility. But although a lot of managers invoke this excuse, it’s almost never the real reason they fail to select and train the right person for the job they want to delegate.
So what is the real reason? I think most bad delegators are simply bad at time management. They’re scattered and disorganized. Fact is, delegation takes a lot of time. The payoff down the road is humungous – you’ll free yourself up to take on higher tasks, you’ll be perceived as a true leader, etc. – but to get there requires an investment. To delegate a task, you have to find someone who’s willing and able to do it. You have to train the person and follow up to make sure they’re doing the task absolutely right. All that takes time.
A simple cost-benefit analysis reveals the wisdom of delegation. Successful leaders find the time to do it. Unsuccessful ones don’t.
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