Organization & Leadership Consulting

The ‘Ologies’ of Delegation

Small figurines on a desk represent delegation

You’re correct. There is no such word as “ologies”. It looks like something from a kid-friendly sci-fi story. On the other hand, there is an entire conceptual arena of “the study of” or “a body of knowledge”. Interestingly, for something as conceptually simple as the management practice of delegation, there is a robust body of knowledge around it. How does such a simple idea end up with so much written about it?

Because many of us find this simple idea difficult to do.

Why is that? There are myriad superficial reasons: “If you want something done right, do it yourself”, or “It takes less time to do it myself than it does to train someone else to do it”, or “I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I made when I had that responsibility. We don’t have the time for that”. Underneath each of those rationales, and many others, are more substantial reasons for a dearth of well-done delegation. These reasons get personal.

  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Upside-down priorities
  • You name one: _________

Let’s look at fear. What are supervisors afraid of when it comes to delegation?

  • Poor outcomes. Not meeting expectations. Appearances.
  • Wasting time and resources. Having to do some or all of it over.
  • Loss of prestige, power, affirmation, or approval (sometimes from people not even directly involved in the organization – i.e., family of origin influences).

Now let’s look at pride. What about pride gets in the way of effective delegation?

  • The need for approval, credibility, credit, attention, etc.
  • The need to feel good about or validate oneself through performance.
  • The doing of the thing is essential to our sense of identity.

How do we know when those motivations are getting in the way? When we sense something is not quite right, and we are tempted to blame it all on someone or something else. There is rarely only one factor at play when more than one person is involved.

Here are two insightfully helpful questions to ask yourself when you are hesitant to fully delegate.

Set aside enough time to sit quietly and let either your inner wisdom or Higher Power reveal an answer. It’s often surprisingly clear, sometimes disturbingly so. Sometimes the answer is neutral or nothing; if so, move on.

  • What am I trying to avoid?
  • What am I trying to prove?

The first question gets at fear. The second addresses pride. You may get an immediately helpful answer. Act on it. You may get one you don’t like. Accept it for what it is and act on it. Seek input and help on the actions to take and the processing to do. We are not meant to do everything on our own (thus the need for delegation).

The internal factors that get in the way of effective delegation are often exacerbated or mitigated by our mindset. For example, are you of the mind to use people to get the work done or use the work to grow the people?

More on that, and delegation how-tos, in our next blog.

TurningWest –Your Guide to a Healthy Culture with Meaningful Results.


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