To build a high-performing team, you must master the core leadership skill of delegating.
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Entrepreneurs and delegation have a long and turbulent history together. Handing over the reins can be one of the most vulnerable things leaders can do. But people who can’t delegate often work more than they need to, experience burnout, take on more than they can handle and feel frustrated and without support.
Even with the negative consequences, delegation is tough. It’s challenging — even emotionally taxing — to relinquish control and trust others to complete work you’re used to doing yourself. But if you can learn to delegate, this skill is a gamechanger.
Why? Your organization needs delegation; if you’re doing all the work, what does that mean for your team? Delegating is an opportunity to develop individuals so your collective strength increases. It’s a way to collaboratively energize your organization and spark inspiration. It empowers you to stay focused on high-level vision and strategy without getting lost in the weeds. And perhaps most importantly, it’s a way for you to stay healthy and sane while improving productivity and efficiency on your team.
If you’re struggling with delegating, there are a handful of tools you can use to make the most of this management technique. Here are the five most common myths we hear about delegation and how to prove them wrong.
1. “My people are already too busy.”
This myth causes a confusing whirlwind of emotions: you’re grateful your people are busy but fearful that asking them to do more will cause resentment or frustration. You’re left feeling pressure to take on more work yourself out of fear your team will fail or quit.
Dispel the myth: Get more data. Start a conversation with your team and crowdsource the support you need. Don’t make assumptions — ask people if they can take on more work. More often than not, you’ll find people want to help and will find the time if you ask for it. As an ancillary benefit, this also shows your team that it’s okay to ask for help and inspires future collaboration.
Related: The Art and Science of Delegation (Infographic)
2. “They can’t do it as well as I can.”
While we want to believe in our teams, there is some truth to this myth. If you’ve been bogarting a task or role for a long time, you’re the expert. That pattern will never change unless you take time to propagate your expertise.
Dispel the myth: Invest in people. This is one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve gotten from Clay Mathile, Aileron’s Founder, and it’s one I carry with me every day. Your team is your most valuable resource, and spending time growing their skills is an investment. They might not get it right the first time. Or even the second time. But the ultimate end result will be a team that operates comfortably and autonomously, freeing up your time. You might also be surprised at the skills and diverse perspectives they bring to the table.
Related: Delegation 101 — How Entrepreneurs Can Boost Employee Productivity
3. “It will be faster if I do it myself.”
Again, this is initially true. If you’re the expert at a task or role, it’s second nature to you. But where does that leave you? Stuck and unable to grow and focus on more important tasks. And where does that leave your people? In the same place.
Dispel the myth: See point two. Invest in people. If you maintain control over a task simply because it’s faster for you to do it, you’re missing the opportunity for long-term personal and organizational growth.
4. “If I delegate, my role is at risk.”
When we grow others and share responsibilities, it naturally creates a primal fear that we’re not as needed or important. This negative self-talk creates tension on a team and stifles growth. In reality, when you invest in others, you have the opportunity to create more value by using the time you freed up to add more value yourself.
Dispel the myth: Great organizational culture recognizes that high-performing teams do well because of empowering, motivating leaders. A productive team isn’t a sign that you aren’t needed — it’s a sign that you’re critical to success. Growing your team (i.e. delegating) is the most important thing you can do as a leader.
Related: How to Delegate Better and Become a Great Leader
5. “Delegating is belittling.”
A while back, I was struggling with hiring an assistant. I felt it wasn’t fair to ask someone to do things I was clearly capable of doing myself. And then my friend called me arrogant. She brought up that my thinking I could do this work better than professionals who had different strengths — strengths that our organization desperately needed — was inherently insulting. She was right. That feedback allowed me to realize that hiring an assistant would make our organization stronger as a whole.
Dispel the myth: When you assume tasks are trivial, you fail to recognize their importance. No office could run without effective planning and scheduling. No event would succeed without meticulous vendor coordination. These tasks aren’t mundane — they’re the fibers that hold together effective organizations. Change your perspective and acknowledge just how important these functions are. By doing so you’ll recognize the significance of the people doing them.
So how do we change the story? It starts with recognizing that delegation isn’t about getting work done. Delegation is a skill that must be mastered to lead with your best self and build high-performing teams. As you set out to harness control over your anti-delegation tendencies, start by recognizing these five myths and proactively reversing the lies you’re telling yourself. It may take time to feel completely comfortable with delegation. You may never feel comfortable with it. But we all know that growth lies outside our comfort zones.