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Eleven barriers to delegation

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Delegation is the single most important skill for a business owner to master (discuss).

That makes it depressing that so many business owners are pants at it.  Here are some excuses and reasons I’ve been given with my responses – feel free to add your own:

  1. My employees will make mistakes.  Of course they will.  That’s how you learned.  Support them so that they don’t make big mistakes
  2. I do not have the right staff, they are not up to it.  From experience I suggest that this may be the case, but probably isn’t.  Employees’ performance usually reflects their manager’s capability.  Leaders understand that people live up to (or down to) their leader’s expectations.
  3. It is quicker to do it myself.  Well, it might take you an hour to show someone else what takes you five minutes – but if you don’t invest that hour you will still be doing it yourself in one year or ten years
  4. It’s cheaper to do it myself.  This is clearly nonsense unless your time is worth less than that of your employees
  5. I don’t want to waste time “doing management” instead of “doing important stuff”.  Leaders embrace the fact that leading people is their job.  If you would rather spend your time doing technical work then that’s fine but you should accept that you will never be a leader and your business will never grow
  6. I don’t have the time to define how things should be done so that others can do it.  Leaders understand that they are building a system to make money.  Building processes that are repeatable and can be carried out by others is an essential part of that.  Leaders recognise the long-term value in developing others to succeed (and get pleasure from doing this).  Finally, delegating stuff very quickly frees up your time
  7. My staff will reject attempts to give them more responsibility.  Maybe some will – but leaders have high expectations of other people and these expectations are not usually disappointed.  It depends how you go about it
  8. I’ll spend all this time developing staff and then they’ll leave.  Employees leave because they feel unfulfilled, or put upon, or stressed, or they hate their boss.  Developing and challenging them, becoming a better leader and recognising their increased value to the organisation will make most people more loyal and attract others to work for you.  Leaders accept it when staff do move on to bigger things and see it as proof of how well they have been developed
  9. I’m scared of overloading staff.  Leaders see delegation as a gift. They believe that responsibility, delegated well, will be rewarding for the recipient and they will become more productive.  Leaders know they have employees who are not scared to say “No” or to raise workload issues and their solution
  10. I need to be seen as “leading from the front”.  This limiting mindset is really a fear that what you do as leader is not valuable.  Even if you are the best widget maker in the world you will only ever be a single widget-maker.  A leader can produce an unlimited number of widget makers who are better than her and bring in the work to keep them busy.  How is that not more valuable?
  11. The final barrier is usually unspoken but along the lines of “What am I if l am no longer the best widget maker, or the expert with the answers, or the centre-forward, or the quarterback?”  Leaders have a fulfilling self-image that they are good at hiring and developing people to be better than them at doing stuff and that this is a much bigger and more valuable skill than making widgets

(With apologies to all widget makers).

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