How to Overcome Delegation Hesitation

Trial delegation will give you, and them, confidence and learning.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #386

Delegation can be like handing off one’s life work to the next generation: terrifying. At first, of course, having a next generation seems like a joyous event.

My client is ecstatic! His shmoopie has announced a pending new arrival to the family, and he is planning the bedroom. No, not just a mere bedroom, why—a growth studio. Precious will have a fully dedicated growth studio! A place to succeed, to fail, to become an entitled member of the next generation, to work.

Ah, yes, work. The mere thought reminds him … he wants to take several months leave from work, to spend with little precious. (This story is presumably happening somewhere with reasonable we-just-had-a-baby policies.) But things in the office still need to get done! Oh, how to cope?

Delegation Can Be Hard

The answer seems obvious: Delegate! You know, just let everyone know what needs to be done and when. Then magically, it will all get done. There’s only one small fly in the ointment: the very word “delegation” gives him the night terrors. He’s scared he picked the wrong people. Or the wrong jobs. Or that the world will just grind to a screeching halt while he’s gone.

But delegation isn’t all-or-nothing. He can just add one small word before delegation: “Trial Delegation.” If you’re having trouble delegating, you can do trial delegation, as well.

Delegate Slowly

You don’t have to give everything to your peeps to do all at once. Start by delegating a little at a time. That lets you ease your fears gradually, and lets everyone around you ease into responsibility.

Schedule an extra-long weekend away in the Poconos, and give a few of your responsibilities to a few different folks in the office. You don’t even have to authorize people to take action. If you’re delegating writing a letter, have them do the writing, but require your sign-off before sending the letter. This gives you ample opportunity to help develop their skills while keeping yourself accountable and in-the-loop for producing quality work. 

At the end of the long weekend, see how they did. If the company is still solvent, you’re golden. Increase your “I can trust my people” meter by one trust point.

If they had problems, or didn’t do the job to your satisfaction, sit down with them and identify where the problem was. 

Smooth Organizational Sticking Points

If the problem is that they couldn’t navigate the organization to get things done, then find out why not. You may need to coach them to establish relationships within the company that they’ll need in order to get things done. Or if they found they lacked the authority needed to fulfill their new obligations, you need to figure out how to give them an organizational hall pass so they can wander the halls with impunity. 

If the problem is that they just aren’t up to the task, then arrange now to get them training! Then by the time you really need to delegate, they’ll have the background they need.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.