By the
Mind Tools
Editorial Team

The Delegation Dilemma

© iStockphoto

There are times when you have to hand over responsibility.

The saying "If it's to be, it's up to me" is a great support to those who are unwilling to delegate. It justifies them in working long hours, and maintaining that there's simply no other way to get things done.

And when you hold it to be true, you can ignore the possibility that sometimes, when you delegate a task, it can actually get done better than you could do it yourself.

If you see yourself in this fateful saying, you are not alone. Delegation is an area of personal and professional management that many people struggle with. The difficulty stems from our need to control outcomes and a strongly rooted belief that we know how to do things best. It's hard to let go of control.

As managers, we fear the repercussions when an employee fails to complete something correctly or in a timely manner. The failure might reflect badly on us so we take the path of least resistance. Rather than working on improving our delegation skills, sometimes we simply keep hold of more tasks. Being overworked somehow seems less risky than having things done that might not meet our exact requirements.

Beneath the many excuses for not delegating lies the reason why many of us avoid delegating things: true delegation means giving up a little of what we would like to hold onto (some measure of control) while keeping what we might prefer to give up (accountability).

Think about it. By nature we love to keep control. That way we can make sure things are done completely the way we want them done. It's often a scary prospect even to think about letting someone else take over a task or duty we've been doing for a while:

What if they don't do it correctly?
What if the outcome is not up to my standards?
What if they don't do it the way I've been doing it?
What if I become less essential to the business?
What if, gasp, they do it better than me?

It's tempting to want to hold onto control. And giving up control it often (wrongly) equated with giving up leadership as well. In fact leadership has much, much more to do with responsibility than authority or control.

How many times have you heard someone say that he or she can handle responsibility or that they thrive on accountability? Many people do, yet what people often mean is that they like to be in control.

Delegation means taking true responsibility and inevitably means giving up some control. If that sounds a bit scary, how can you overcome your mindset and become a better delegator? Here are some tips:...

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