Why an inability to delegate is really about lack of trust

‘Why don’t you trust your team?’

This is the question I asked a Head of Department during a recent coaching session.

There was silence – ‘Well, I do… but’ and then the reasons why they couldn’t assign certain tasks to each member started to come.

For me, trust is the real issue related to delegation. If we are able to delegate a task we would normally do we are saying

  • You are good at your job
  • I know you have the skills to do it to a decent standard
  • I don’t feel threatened by you
  • I trust you

Earlier in my career, as a new Head of Faculty,  I used to find delegation hard. I wanted to do it all myself because it wouldn’t be done in the way I wanted or to the standard I wanted. Then I realised this was poor management and poor leadership. It was disempowering.

  • Mostly, it’s the outcome that matters not whether it was done in the exact same style that I would have done it
  • Always doing tasks myself meant I wasn’t truly developing others or creating a self sustaining team
  • Keeping control of everything meant I couldn’t work on other things that would actually be better uses of my time long term or in a strategic way

So if you find that you have an issue with being able to delegate. Ask why? Why don’t you trust your colleagues? What do you need to do as a leader so that you can?


3 thoughts on “Why an inability to delegate is really about lack of trust

  1. This is such an important lesson for leaders. I think it can be about power, leader sensing a loss of their power. It can be about fear, leader not in control. It can be about needing to have a grasp of the big picture, the leader not always knowing this. I am also thinking about ” simply” task delegation, or real empowerment. Delegation of the strategy? And then there is the challenge of ” monitoring ” …. This can be a control and power model OR an empowering model. Lots to reflect on here.

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