Most leaders understand the reward of delegating: You free yourself to focus on your highest-priority work while offering your team opportunities for growth and development. While this is a great idea in theory, many good leaders struggled to put it into practice.
There are many reasons why leaders don’t delegate. Some believe that they are the only ones who can do the job correctly, or that it will take more time to explain than just doing it themselves. Others don’t want to give up their role as experts or fear being overshadowed by their team. More recently, however, guilt over adding more work to a team member’s to-do list has been the top hurdle expressed by the leaders I coach.
Take for example Kendra, CMO for an ad tech company, who said, “I’m so overwhelmed, but so is my team. I feel guilty asking them to do more work.” Or Miguel, founder of a successful fashion brand, whose concern for his team led him to continually take on jobs that he should have delegated.
Caring about the well-being of your team and managing your workload is part of good leadership. But when unchecked guilt gets in the way of delegation, it’s a no-win situation. Increased leader workload results in anxiety, burnout, and higher value work being undone. Furthermore, it can have damaging effects on the very computer it is trying to protect. Employees may feel distrusted, which lowers morale and engagement, and a lack of growth opportunities leads to employee turnover.
Here’s how to ease your guilt and delegate more while still taking care of your team.
defy your guilt
There are two types of guilt: justified and unjustified. When we have transgressed a moral norm, the uncomfortable but justified feeling of guilt activates our sense of responsibility and encourages us to make amends. Guilt also provides preventative feedback, allowing us to be proactive in preventing misdeeds and encouragement prosocial behavior.
But when we mistakenly take responsibility for a situation or overestimate the suffering we can cause, the guilt becomes irrational and unhealthy. Persistent unwarranted guilt is associated with decreased self esteemraised anxiety Depressionand physical symptoms.
To distinguish whether or not the guilt you feel is justified, ask yourself, “What’s stopping me from delegating this task?” and write down any thoughts that come to mind. For example, Miguel wanted his team to like coming to work, so he took on more tasks (“I could be the one to do this”) instead of delegating them.
Challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself: How could I be wrong? What else could be true? Miguel realized that while it was true that he could get the job done, it was not the right solution for the team or the company. If you’re not hurting someone or contradicting your morals, your guilt is probably unjustified.
Checking your thoughts is especially important if you are prone to guiltwhen any sign or possibility of suffering and discontent of others may incite you to assume an undue responsibility.
Naturally, there will be times when delegating doesn’t make sense. However, he stops himself and his team when blame results in a general approach of grasping at responsibilities that need to be distributed.
Flip your script on delegating
People who feel guilty about delegating worry that they are burdening their team. They may also feel responsible for the happiness of others, or believe that the needs of others outweigh their own.
Instead, recognize the benefits of delegating and reframe your thoughts. For example, consider that instead of overloading your team, you’re giving them the opportunity to grow. Instead of believing that not delegating will promote team happiness, understand that people love to feel trusted by their leader. Allowing higher contributions and more meaningful work Increase engagement, engagement and job satisfaction.
Job hoarding at the top is also a no-win situation for your company. Doing it all means you neglect work that only you can do and miss out on opportunities. Delegation shifts work to the most appropriate level and eliminates work that matters least. With today’s rapid pace of change, leaders must frequently assess and eliminate work that is no longer relevant.
Improve your delegation skills
If you know you’re not delegating effectively, and this is contributing to your guilt and reluctance, take action. The purpose of “healthy guilt” is to trigger positive change and make amends.
This requires intention and a reallocation of your time. Instead of doing, you lead and support. Start by evaluating what’s on your plate and determine what you can delegate or eliminate altogether. Then consider who should take it on: Who has the need or desire to develop these skills or is ready for a new challenge?
It’s also helpful to involve your team in this process. For example, Kendra began regularly reviewing all of her areas of responsibility with her direct reports, asking “Where am I too involved?” and “Where do you need me to get more involved?” to make sure her team members felt empowered and supported.
Effective delegation extends far beyond the initial clarification of desired results and handover. Set regular checkpoints for feedback, provide guidance along the way, and recognize team members for their contributions and achievements. Your enhanced delegation skills can help team members feel empowered, supported, and motivated.
Protect your team in different ways
When guilt prevents you from delegating, it often connects with a empathic but misplaced the desire to protect his team. Fortunately, there are other ways to protect your team, without the costs that come with a lack of delegation.
For example, help your team members ruthlessly prioritize their work. Proactively engage them in discussions about what work is currently on their plate and quickly remove low-value work from their list. Help team members work across competing priorities by clarifying and anchoring the most important goals for your organization and that person’s role, and evaluating each task in terms of its importance and urgency.
Also, keep in mind to protect your team from external demands. Especially when larger external stakeholders make requests of your team members, it can be difficult for them to say no. Be willing to intervene when necessary to communicate a judicious “no” or “not now” to the interested party making the request.
Channel your protective instincts to protect your team from low-value work. By supporting them and ensuring that the work they do is meaningful, you can drive team member growth and satisfaction—and take your own blame.
Prepare for temporary discomfort
Overriding the blame around delegation is not easy. Especially when you and your team are already short on time, it can seem like a mistake to invest in delegating. But remember that this investment will pay off in the long run: time savings and more capable and committed employees.
There will undoubtedly be discomfort and setbacks as you and your team adjust to your new style of leadership. Accept that mistakes will be made. When you are prone to guilt, you may be quick to beat yourself up and question your decision to delegate. Instead, practice self-compassion, see these missteps as learning opportunities, and move on.
delegation is a crucial aspect of good leadership; it demonstrates your confidence in your team and gives them the opportunity to stretch and grow further in their roles. With a little effort, you can learn to move beyond delegating blame and free yourself to lead more effectively.