Leaders - How Do You Feel About Delegation?

Leaders - How Do You Feel About Delegation?

Leaders - How Do You Feel About Delegation?



Understanding the mechanics of how to delegate is important and yet many leaders still fail to consistently delegate. What might be the cause(s) for not delegating?

In an article in Harvard Business Review from August 15, 2019, author Deborah Grayson Riegel writes about the “need (for leaders) to understand their own resistance.” Highlighting a key concept from the book, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, the way to overcome resistance to change is to go through the following thought process to uncover the root cause for the resistance.

  1. State what you want to achieve, i.e. – Delegate a meeting to a team member.
  2. Write down what behaviors, thoughts and feelings are blocking you from delegating. It might be:
    • You are afraid you will not be in the information loop on vital information.
    • The people who organized the meeting will be disappointed if you don’t attend.
    • Your team member might make commitments that you wouldn’t make or misrepresent something.
  3. Consider the opposite of these concerns.
    • You could ensure that your team member reports back on what is discussed.
    • You could explain to the organizers of the meeting your reasons for delegating the meeting and discuss any of their concerns.
    • You could provide guidelines to your team member about what they have the authority to do in the meeting and when they need to check with you.

By digging underneath your automatic response to delegating to someone, you can discover what is causing your resistance and decide how to overcome it. Don’t underestimate your “emotional immune system,” these are the feelings that could be preventing you from making change. Identifying them is the first step to overcoming them. You may be surprised by what you uncover.

Another concept that helps us to understand our resistance to change is our brain’s predisposition to maintain the status quo. Like a thermostat set at a particular temperature to keep us comfortable, our brains are also wired to bring us back to homeostasis, to a state where we feel most comfortable. The best way to bypass this reaction is to make changes in small steps. By making small, consistent changes, we are flying underneath the radar of our brain’s reaction to change and often can achieve greater results than if we try to make a big change upfront.

Coupled with the resistance to change is trust. When we have strong trust in someone, it becomes easier to delegate and let go of our resistance. However, trust is not an all or nothing feeling. It is a continuum that grows when we have evidence to support that trust. And some of us have an easier time with extending trust to others.

Delegation is a wonderful way to build your trust in others. It may require starting small and gradually growing into more trust. Building trust by delegating helps your team member to grow their professional skills. As a leader, you learn to let go of lower-level tasks so that you can focus on higher priorities.

There are 5 Levels of Delegation:

  1. Wait until you are told what to do.
  2. Ask what you should do next.
  3. Recommend and then take action.
  4. Do it and report immediately.
  5. Own it and report routinely.

Use these 5 levels to analyze how you currently delegate to each of your team members. Consider what you need to do to move a team member through the levels of delegation and to get them to level 5. You don’t need to go from 2 to 5. Start with asking yourself, how do I take someone who is a level 2 to a level 3?

So, what is holding you back from delegating more? How can you create more trust between yourself and your team so that you can get comfortable delegating? What would be the benefits for you in being a better delegator?

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Welcome to the Listening to the Leader in You Blog

Super-leaders arm themselves with insight. This blog is where you’ll find concepts, ideas, resources and more for honing your full set of leadership capabilities. 
Lynn Schaber, MCC
For the past 20 years, I’ve been privileged to partner with individuals intent on cracking the code to leadership beyond the ordinary.