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Delegating - why you should, why you might not be and how you could

New leaders can find it a bit tricky to delegate and so unsurprisingly it comes up a lot in coaching.

If that's you, then I'm hoping this blog might help. Based on a mixture of mine and my clients' experiences, I'm sharing some thoughts and ideas on

  • why you should delegate,

  • the reasons you might have for not delegating, and

  • how you might experiment with changing how you think and what you do, so that you can delegate well and more often.

Why you should delegate

As with any change, the first thing to establish is a good reason to go through the effort of changing - so you need to find your 'why' first.

  • What will happen if you carry on not delegating?

  • What will happen if you do?

  • What can you gain and avoid?

Here are a few reasons to get you started.

You need to delegate because...

If you don't delegate, you'll be doing someone else's job and not your own...and that's not good for you or for them.

This could lead to some fairly interesting conversations when it comes to discussions around your performance.

  • Boss "Why haven't you done this thing you get paid more to do, that only you can do...?"

  • You "Because I had to spend time helping my team do the things that they are responsible for doing"

...and your team may make a variety of assumptions to explain your behaviour, which may not be helpful to their career or their relationship with you...

  • "My boss doesn't trust me or think I'm good enough to do that"

  • "My boss is a control freak that doesn't want to let anything go"

  • "That's great, my boss is doing part of my job, so I don't have to"

  • "I don't want to get a promotion as being a manager looks like it's really hard work".

You'll blow your work/life boundaries, and end up in a vicious stress spiral

  • If you don't delegate you'll end up trying to do too much.

  • As stress is the result of demand outstripping your capacity, that'll mean you're likely to end up stressed.

  • As stress inhibits our ability to think clearly, anything you try and do will be harder so you'll end up working even harder to try and get everything done (well) and your stress will increase further.

  • The worst-case scenario is that you'll have to take time off because of the stress and then nothing gets done. All those things you were trying to do will need to be reassigned anyway.

You won't be an effective leader

If you can't delegate to your team, you're not going to get very far as a leader.

There's a big difference between

  • being a leader and providing the support your team needs to do their best work...and

  • doing the work for them.

If you're going to be an effective leader, you need to achieve through others and help those others achieve

These reasons FOR delegating may be enough to shift your thinking and persuade you to start delegating like a pro, but if not, let's consider a few more reasons...

Why you don't delegate and how you could

Here's a selection of common reasons that people have for not delegating and some different ways to think about them if they apply to you.

You feel like you're dumping work on others

Perhaps because...

  • you've been promoted above your peers so you don't feel comfortable delegating something that was only recently part of your job.

  • it feels unfair or even rude to suggest someone else picks up the task

  • you know that the person who should be doing it won't want to do it either or already has a high workload, so you're anticipating conflict or a struggle to get it done.

A few ways to look at this differently...

  • You've been promoted for a reason. Your management sees something in you that they value. They need you to do something different to what you used to do, so you can't carry on doing that old part of your job.

  • Your team might not want this task either. But if they can do this and not other bits of your job, then you should be focusing on the bits of your job that they can't do, while they do this.

  • Your team may wonder why/be aggrieved that the management promoted you rather than them if you carry on doing everything they do.

  • Rather than doing the task for them, how else could you support them with what they need to do? For example, can you reset priorities and expectations for what needs to be done so they aren't so overloaded?

  • Is this task a chance for this team member to get a different experience? To learn something new? To grow? Is it a development opportunity for them? Might it be something that they'd actually love to do?

You think you'll be less valuable in some way or more easily dispensable if you don't do this task

When we're used to adding value in one way, it can be difficult to let that go.

It can feel that we are giving away our worth. The thing we are known for being good at.

But...if you get to pass on what you're good at, you get to take a step up and utilise what you've learnt to be more strategic and become even more valuable.

As Martyn Newman, emotional intelligence expert and co-founder of RocheMartin says

Your power as a leader increases as you give it away

You don't WANT to stop doing or give up the stuff you know

  • This is actually the bit of your job you've always liked doing but it's not really your priority anymore.

  • It's the easy stuff and you'd rather do that than any harder stuff that you now have on your list

We all like things that are familiar so can find any change uncomfortable, so this reaction is completely natural.

The answer? How can you make this change and the new tasks you have to do (including delegating) as simple, manageable and as comfortable as possible?

You don't want to lose control / you can't control the quality if you delegate
  • You don't want to lose control as you want it to be done 'right'

  • You don't like the way they do this task so you'd rather avoid that or the perceived conflict or time taken to address how they do it

This is often a problem for perfectionists, who want something done perfectly and/or in exactly the way THEY would do it.

This is not empowering leadership and can lead to the curse of micro-management which generally means that

  • You never actually give the task away. Your involvement is so great, that you might as well have spent the time doing it yourself. You haven't delegated.

  • Your team members get frustrated and because of your excessive involvement, start doubting their ability to the point that they actually become less able to do the task.

  • You create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can't delegate the task and have to do it yourself.

...and the key answer to thinking differently about this is the same as for the other common reason for not delegating....

It's quicker to do it yourself

...this is a REALLY tempting and easy option when you're busy.

THIS time it may be quicker (or better) but if you keep doing this then you'll end up always doing it.

A more helpful option for you and for them? Invest time in explaining, training, mentoring or coaching them. Make sure you give them the support and information they need and empower them to get on with the task. Try out some of the tips later in this blog.'s a bit like the old saying

Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day

Teach someone how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.

...but in this case, it's you that need never do that task again, once they learn to fish!

You also need to remember that you have loads of experience, so this new task will take them longer than it will take you just factor that into your expectations.

Other tips for delegating like a pro

  • Set outcomes and expectations, and explain what you need to. Make sure you've given them all the information they need in a way that makes sense to them.

  • Make sure they know they can ask you if they have any more questions or need more help.

  • Agree when you'll follow up/how you'll monitor progress...and add a task with a date to your to-do list for that, so you can properly let go of it until that time.

  • Make it ok for them to have a go so that even if they don't get it right, you (both) treat it as a learning experience - how did the task go and is there something to learn about how you delegated?

...and I would say this wouldn't I....

Work with a coach

It's easy not to challenge yourself and come up with lots of justifiable reasons for not delegating. But a coach can provide that challenge and help you unpick the reasons you don't delegate.

Your coach will also help you find options that are OK for you to experiment with...and they'll support you as you embed the changes in how you think and what you do. Helping you to iron out any wrinkles and keep going until empowering leadership becomes automatic for you.

However you do it, do yourself a favour and find a way to make delegating simple, manageable and as comfortable as possible (for you AND your team)

If you'd like to improve your delegation and other leadership skills and would like to explore coaching with me, then click here to book a free call.

And if you'd like to try out my monthly emails that provide a roundup of my blogs as well as other insights, you can sign up here.


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