5 Common Reasons Leaders Are Afraid to Delegate Work

Woman delegating work in a meeting

I had a client who struggled with his assistant. He was super busy and knew he needed to use his assistant better, but kept avoiding the situation.

“I’m just not sure what work to give her,” my client said when referring to his assistant. 

This is a common response from clients who need to run their business more efficiently. It can be hard to trust the people that we’ve hired or to hire people to help alleviate some of the workload.

Each week, he gave her the same easy tasks. He knew he wasn’t utilizing her talents to the fullest. He would get frustrated with himself because he didn’t do a better job delegating work to her.

Leaders (CEOs, VPs, small business owners, directors, etc.) must become better delegators. If they can improve in this area, they can save time and money. They often wished they put a process in place earlier. One of the best parts of improving your delegation skills is reducing stress. You don’t have to worry about how the work is done because they know your standards and how to meet them.

Before delegating your work, you must know what is holding you back from leveraging other people’s skills.

Here are five common reasons why they might not delegate their work:

1. Fear of Losing Control 

Many business owners feel they need to have a hand in every aspect of their business to ensure it runs correctly. They fear that by delegating, they will lose control over the quality and outcome of the work, which can be particularly concerning if the business is their own brainchild or has been built from the ground up.

They don’t feel like the person they are delegating to can do it as well as they can. This is often true, especially at the beginning of the output from the employee, contractor, or assistant. They will improve over time if you’ve designed the process well and they clearly understand how to do their tasks and the standard for their work.

2. Perception That It’s Faster to Do It Themselves

There’s a common belief among many business owners that explaining a task to someone else takes longer than just doing it themselves. This can be especially true for complex tasks that require a lot of background knowledge or context that other team members might not have.

This is where SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) can come to the rescue. SOPs are simply documenting how to do the task, why it matters, and what questions often arise as the task is being completed. You can get the Quickstart Guide to SOPs that Don’t Suck, so you can do a better job of training your people.

3. Lack of Trained Staff or Resources

Some small business owners might not delegate because they don’t have staff with the right skills or knowledge to handle the tasks. This could be due to a lack of training resources or because the business is operating with a lean team, and there’s a perception that there’s no one “qualified” to take on additional responsibilities.

This may be true, but it is often the business owner’s fault. There must be time for training/upskilling for everyone in the organization. The last thing you want is for people to stagnate and quit.

4. Guilt Over Burdening Employees

Business owners often build close relationships with their employees and may feel guilty about overloading them with extra work. They may take on too much themselves to protect their team from stress or burnout, not realizing that delegation can also be an opportunity for employee growth and development.

We must use the “Inverse” framework that Charlie Munger likes to discuss. What if we aren’t giving them the opportunity to grow in their job? We are missing out on giving them an opportunity to test their skills and figure out a way to solve problems.

5. Inadequate Systems for Delegation

Effective delegation requires systems and processes to be in place. Without these, delegation can lead to chaos rather than efficiency. Small business owners might not have these systems, or they may be inadequate, leading them to avoid delegating tasks out of concern that they won’t be completed correctly or on time.

That’s why an SOP Library is so important. It’s a central place to keep documentation of how you do things and the standards you expect people to meet. If you don’t have an SOP library of your routine work, many employees don’t have a solid foundation to work from and figure out how to thrive in your organization.

Overcoming these barriers to delegation is crucial for business growth. It involves building trust in the team, investing in training and systems, and recognizing the long-term benefits of sharing the workload for the overall health of the business and its employees.

I suggest you start by improving your SOP documentation. If you are a small company, you can document your own processes, or if you are a bit larger then you can ask your people to create SOPs based on your criteria. Give them clear guidelines like a Guide to SOPs that Don’t Suck so they understand what a good SOP looks like and how it helps the company focus on constant improvement.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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