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Are You A Not-So-Great Delegator?

Some tips for letting go

One of the prime contributors to the busyness plaguing leaders is a reluctance or inability to delegate appropriately. In the 360 feedback we gather as part of our work with executives, we’ve sometimes seen this reluctance stem from an overstrength in concern for direct reports: Leaders are reluctant to overburden others who are also busy with extra work the leaders could perform themselves.

We’ve also seen this arise from an overstrength in integrity: Leaders have specific standards for how the work should be performed and don’t trust others to perform as they would. Both concern and integrity are certainly positive qualities, but too much of a good thing can create negative unintended outcomes.

Trust is a key element in each of these situations. We define trust as a willingness to put something you value at risk based on another’s actions. In the integrity case, the trust factor arises because the leader isn’t willing to risk that someone else won’t perform as they would. In the concern case, the leader’s reluctance to delegate may be interpreted by others as stemming from a lack of trust.

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