Why don’t you delegate?
Books have been written on the importance of delegation.
Frameworks have been defined, along with diagrams and thorough explanations of what should be delegated and what not, for example:
There are also diagrams and guidelines to help identify whom to delegate tasks to, but that is definitely outside of the scope of this post.
Now, many managers agree on the importance of delegating tasks.
However, surprisingly enough, throughout my career, I have met many managers who struggled with delegation.
What were the main causes? In short:
- Fear of losing control.
- Fear of becoming useless to the company.
- Fear of being perceived as “lazy”.
Are those valid reasons?
Spoiler: these are all fake reasons. They are made up, not substantiated by any analytical or experiential data.
Let’s go through these concerns, one by one, and dismantle them, also one by one.
Some managers feel like they will lose their influence if they delegate.
They fear they won’t be present whenever a decision needs to be taken.
They fear they will miss some small details.
They think the team(s) will just drift away without proper guidance.
Do not let your fears define you.
As a manager, you don’t want to be involved with the BAU, unless it presents some critical decision to be taken, or there is some guidance and coaching required.
A good day-to-day routine should come from good processes and a trust-based culture.
For example, your team members should know exactly when they should escalate a decision to you.
Influence comes from respect.
Team members will respect a manager who does not micromanage and who gives them freedom and space to grow instead.
The manager does not need to know about every single detail. They should trust team members to apply the guidelines and best practices that have been agreed upon and documented.
The team will not drift away: on the contrary, they will become more self-sufficient and independent.
This happens especially when an Individual Contributor transitions to management but it affects seasoned managers too, sometimes.
Managers coming from an individual contributor path – the typical example being the Software Developer becoming an Engineering Manager – need to readjust their internal metrics to the new role. The value they bring to the company will not be measured in how much code they write, or how many bugs they fix.
The main new metric will be, whether their team is successful or not.
If a manager’s teams are successful after at least six months – the inherited team needs time to adjust to the new management – then the manager themselves are successful.
Delegation is laziness
There is a fairly common “trick” used by some people both when they are at work or in their private life: they want to appear busy.
The rationale behind it is pretty linear: these people mistake busyness with productivity when they are naive, best case scenario.
Worst case, they know the difference but hope to exploit it so they can retain and solidify their position.
Either way, they are not making themselves or their teams a big service.
- Don’t be afraid.
- Trust your team: to trust them, you first need to mentor it and define team’s internal policies. Takes time and effort.
- Delegate non-critical tasks that do not require your specific skills to be completed.
- As an individual contributor, you are an added value.
- As a manager, you are a multiplier and your success is measured by how successful your team is.