The Enemy in the Mirror: Three Wrong Ways to Delegate

Effective delegation always begins with the personality of the delegator. The greater the awareness that leaders have of their own personalities and tendencies, the better equipped they are to delegate effectively to others.

What follows are the three types of poor delegators. Can you see yourself in any of them?

Effective delegation always begins with the personality of the leader.

THE HESITANT DELEGATOR: Whether to avoid conflict, because they are perfectionists, or because it is easier to just “do it yourself,” some managers undermine their leadership efforts by delegating reluctantly, if at all.

As a result, they take on all the work themselves and become bottlenecks, making it impossible for work to get done in a timely manner. The great danger of “doing it yourself” is the long-term impact it has on subordinates. When they have little (or nothing) to do, or the work they have is perfunctory, they soon become disenchanted.

Good employees eventually leave, and the hesitant delegator is left with only underperformers. This compounds problems if the leader finally does delegate work!

THE EAGER DELEGATOR: At the other end of the spectrum is the manager who is all too ready to hand off work. These individuals, usually unbeknownst to management, have risen in their organization on the backs of others.

Such leaders are not discerning about what is delegated, nor to whom it is distributed. These individuals lead on the basis of benign neglect, which they reframe as empowerment. Their subordinates often wonder what their manager is actually doing during work hours!

Their best people leave because they are frequently overworked and underappreciated. Like the hesitant delegator, the eager delegator is left with underperformers.

THE CONTROLLING DELEGATOR: Some managers do delegate, but do not easily trust their subordinates. These individuals may also feel an exaggerated sense of pressure from their superiors.

These are the ultimate pleasers who are always checking—and rechecking—to see how close their subordinates are to having their work completed, or if they remember this or that detail.

Once the subordinates complete their work, they can be assured that it will be scrutinized, revised, and possibly returned, complete with red marks for corrections!

Controlling delegators really want to do the work themselves, but have learned that it is not possible—so they delegate and micromanage instead. It can be maddening to work for these managers, and good people do not work for them for long.

You may have already guessed that all of these dysfunctional delegating styles are a result of insecurity. In the case of both the hesitant and the controlling delegator, they are fearful of being judged by their superiors.

Dysfunctional delegating styles are a result of insecurity.

Eager delegators, meanwhile, are often insecure in their position or abilities and are preoccupied with rising in the company, so they use the productivity of their group to justify their ambition.

Eventually, all of these roads lead to failure. When your insecurities take over, it is not possible to see the bigger picture, and delegation disaster soon follows.

THE TAKEAWAY: Effective delegation always starts with a look in the mirror. Trusting your team’s abilities and your own decisions is the first step away from insecurity and toward effective delegation.

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