Getting over the delegating dilemma

By Tom Borg

If delegating is getting you down, understanding why you should do it can change your tune.

Arnie is a good manager. He treats his employees well. He communicates clearly to them and is always willing to listen when they come to him with a problem. He encourages them to take training and self-development classes and grow their skill sets. He discourages them from working more than eight hours and encourages them to get home to their families after a hard day’s work.

However, one area where Arnie fails miserably is in the ability to delegate. For some reason, he just doesn’t do it. Oh, he’s tried it once or twice but couldn’t stick with it. He’s not alone; to many presidents, CEOs and managers, “delegate” is a dirty eight-letter word.

I see this predicament time and time again with the clients I work with. What makes it so hard for these people to delegate? What causes them to fumble, stumble and fall in this critical management area?

In my 25-plus years of coaching, mentoring and training, I have discovered a few reasons why this quandary continues to persist in the green industry.

If you’re a company leader that has trouble with the art of delegating and you truly want to learn how to overcome it, I congratulate you. Let’s take a closer look at how you can fix this problem forever.

How does it feel?

As strategic coach Dan Sullivan says, “It’s not the problem that is the problem — it is how you think about the problem that is the problem.” So, with that idea in mind, let me ask you a question: how do you feel about delegating some of your responsibilities and projects to a few of your team members?

I am not asking a logical question, I am asking an emotional one. To answer it, you must get out of your head and in touch with your heart. Let me ask that question again: How do you feel about delegating some of your responsibilities and projects to a few of your team members?

What feeling comes over you when I ask that question? Is it fear that the person you delegate to will perform the job ineptly and cost the company additional time and money? Do you fear potential embarrassment over having been “stupid” enough to delegate such an important task to this individual?

Maybe you feel that you just don’t have the time to explain to someone else how to do a task that you could do in your sleep. After all, in a fraction of the time it takes to teach another person how to complete a familiar assignment, you could quickly and easily complete it yourself.

You may also think by taking the time to delegate a project, you’d be putting yourself behind the eight ball. You already have enough on your list of things to do and are frantically trying to get them done. By taking the time to delegate a task, you feel you’ll have even less time to finish what’s really urgent. You don’t want to feel that kind of pressure; it stresses you out just thinking about it.

Finally, you might be thinking, “If I delegate this job to Jerry, he just might do it better than me. That’s all I need — another millennial showing me up!” If you’ve been guilty of having any of the aforementioned thoughts or feelings, I want to encourage you to shut off the mind chatter and think about this challenge from a different perspective.

Looking at it differently

As has often been said, “You can’t get promoted if you can’t be replaced.” In other words, if there’s no one capable enough to take over your responsibilities, how will you ever be able to get to the next level of your career? How do you feel about staying stuck in this position, when in your heart you know you want to advance within your organization?

Maybe you’re in a green industry firm where there isn’t much room for advancement. Then let me ask you this question: Are you in a position where you’re putting in far more hours per day than you’re getting paid for? Wouldn’t it make sense to have someone else who is being paid a lesser salary or wage take some items off your to-do list? If you do, it will free you up to invest more time in getting more important projects that really need your personal attention done. You could focus on things that have a higher return on investment of time and energy. How do you feel about getting those kinds of results?

Let’s look at the other side of that coin. How might your employees benefit if you were to start delegating to them on a regular basis?

Research has shown that when employees are delegated additional job responsibilities, it keeps them on a growth curve. One of the main reasons a person leaves a company is because he or she feels (there is that word again) they are no longer learning anything new. After a while, they begin to feel they’ve outgrown their job.

While most employees will eventually move up or move on from a company, what allows them to feel most fulfilled in the time they spend at your organization is when they are on a learning curve. It’s rewarding to learn skills they didn’t have when they started, to be continually challenged and forced to develop skill sets that will make them glad they worked at your company.

Belonging and pride

A second reason to delegate to your team members is that it allows them to feel “in on things,” like they are an important part of the team.

You may have heard of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” Wikipedia describes this as “a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.”

Maslow pointed out that one of the basic needs of human beings is to have a sense of belonging. Your employees will gain that sense when they’re allowed to successfully contribute to your company by being delegated additional responsibilities.

Finally, a third reason to delegate additional job responsibilities to your employees is to let them earn a sense of pride, to bask in the glow of compliments and appreciation from their peers — and their bosses — for a job well done. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Start thinking about delegating in a different way than you have before. Acquire a new understanding of the value it can create for you, your employees and your company. When you do this, you will progress further down your own road toward self-actualization.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. He can be reached at 734.404.5909 or tom@tomborg.com, or visit www.tomborgconsulting.com.