Delegation is scary. It’s a loss of control, it’s relying on someone other than yourself to deliver, and a lot of people feel it actually will take more work than doing it themselves. That’s all true.
You do lose control — but in a planned and calculated way. You can monitor the situation.
Someone else does deliver — and with that, comes a host of insecurities and uncomfortableness. It’s the unknown.
It will take more work — initially. But once the person has it down, you then can spend time on more important things.
Here’s my hierarchy of delegation and where most of us get nervous when we think of delegating:
Tier 1 — Basic Work
This is the easiest part to delegate – the work. It just entails that the new person has the ability and focus to cover and deliver the proposed workload on time. Most of the time, they can do this part easily. At first, you have to walk them through it, but if you’ve chosen your person correctly, they will pick this up in a flash.
Tier 2 — Irregularities
This is where certain small ‘bumps in the road’ are found by the person and it takes them a little bit out of their regular basic work arena. Most (if not all) people can handle this area and usually you don’t need to help out (maybe the first time). Example: when a bookkeeper finds an errant entry.
Tier 3 — Pop-Up Events
These are regularly planned events, deliverables and extra work that are expected, but do take the person out of the normal ‘basic work’ area. They might be a presentation, a monthly/quarterly report, or a meeting. This is a slightly scary area for delegators — they worry the person might screw up (and they will then look bad) or the person will forget (oops!).
Tier 4 — Emergencies
This is the critical, defining moment for delegators. They worry the person they delegated to will not be able to handle those emergencies which crop up from time to time. They could be mistakes made by the client, unforeseen circumstances, or just plain shake-ups of the normal process which have a critical time component attached to them. I always tell my clients this is where they have to jump in the first few times to help the person they delegated to with the matter at hand.
Tier 5 — Personality/Process Issues
Here is the deal-breaker for delegation. Delegators are afraid of relinquishing certain duties or projects because ‘only they’ can handle the people attached to the account or project. Usually they feel they have more time invested and really know the peculiarities of the people involved or they’ve built a solid reputation with them.
See where I’m going? A lot of delegation is the worry of losing control and taking a hit to your self-esteem. Remember . . . only YOU can do this critical work. What would happen to your ego if the person you picked did it BETTER? If they handled emergencies a little faster and more efficiently? If they ACTUALLY got along better with clients and colleagues than you did?
Most of the time, we are worried about the person screwing up and making us look bad (or worse, lose the account). The funny thing is, much of this is fixed by close monitoring and jumping in when needed. But the real obstacle in delegation is the psychic hit to our self-esteem, ego, and our work output. We don’t want to look bad or ineffective.
Delegation is like jumping into a cold pool — it’s hard to talk yourself into it, but when you do jump in, it’s cold for a few seconds and then you quickly get used to it. My mantra — if you don’t delegate, you’ll never move up, improve, or take on more challenging/interesting responsibilities.