Why it’s not happening (by “it” I mean all those things you’ve delegated)

It’s probably not going to happen.

Not really a ‘glass half full’‘ approach to the start of an article I know. But I want to share with you 4 reasons why that task you delegated to your employee or volunteer mostly likely won’t get done, unless something changes.  

In my early days as a leader I micromanaged… everything. I was caught up in the tension of wanting to get things done but wanting things to get done the way ‘I want‘. That caused me to be continually sticking my nose into every project or task I delegated. Not only did it frustrate me because it robbed so much of my time but it also frustrated my team who questioned whether or not I believed they were capable. I heard countless speakers and leaders talk about the importance of delegation. I knew I needed to do it, but it was a struggle. Finally, I thought I would give it a go.

And to my surprise…it didn’t work. 

Despite giving them tasks to do, I still found that the job wasn’t getting done. Delegating can and does work. But it didn’t for me early on. Reflecting on my initial experience there are 4 reasons why it didn’t work for me. 

1. They Didn’t Know What To Do 

Life was fast paced. I had a lot on my plate. I was working across 3 departments and assuming 3 different roles and trying to get my head in all of it. I didn’t have time to sit down and explain every detail to the people I was leading. Most of the task delegating occurred in a hallway conversation that lasted a few minutes where I expected them to get the picture. They didn’t. In hindsight they probably should have asked for clarity but as a leader I have to take responsibility for communicating what was expected clearly. If a delegated task isn’t getting done, there’s a chance that your team member doesn’t actually know what was expected of them.

Tip: Tell them what is expected. Ask them to repeat it back to ensure they understand. 

2. They Didn’t Know How to Do 

As leaders there are some things that anyone can do and some things that only you can do. Unfortunately at times I tried to delegate things that only I could do. I asked my team to carry a responsibility that they didn’t know how to do. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me when it didn’t get done. At other times I was putting a responsibility on them that they just did not have the skillset to execute. However, if I had given them the right resources or training, things could have looked very different. Sometimes it’s as simple as a training manual or assigning another experienced team member as a partner or it may just require you to sit with them once and show them.  

Tip: Explain what skills or resources are required. Ask how you can prepare them for the task ahead. 

3. They Didn’t Want to Do 

It’s not a good excuse but it is a very real reason why some delegated tasks just don’t get done. Sometimes the person you have in a role simply does not want to play their part on the team because they don’t want to do what they are doing. This comes down to organisational fit and performance management. Is the person in the role in their best fit? If they are then this requires performance management (we all have to do things we don’t want to do). It may mean that we need to replace this person if we do not see improvement. If we want to retain the team member and realise they aren’t in there best fit it may mean changes to their role to see them contributing in a more effective way.   

Tip: Ask the hard questions. Is this working? It’s ok if it isn’t. Readjust them, or replace them. 

4. They Didn’t have Authority to Do

One of the major reasons I found that delegating didn’t work for me initially was because, even though the team member wanted to do what was asked, they couldn’t do what was asked. I had given them an assignment but had not given them an authority. When we delegate, we need to empower people with the ability to make the decisions required of them. If they aren’t given a level of decision making authority then a.) they will continually bring you down into the mix of the task you have delegated (defeating the purpose of delegation) or b.) decisions won’t get made and the task will sit stagnant waiting for permission to move forward (bottlenecking). 

Tip: Delegate authority not just assignment. What scope for decision making does this person have? Make sure they know. 

Great leaders need to understand the power of effective delegation. We go further and faster when we shoulder the burden with others. I made these mistakes early on and they stopped me and my team from being as effective as possible

I hope you can learn from my mistakes and see progress in your area of leadership!

Happy Delegating!