Four Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Delegation

Recently I was discussing workloads with a friend. I said I should probably delegate more.

His response was, "I hate to delegate. It's just better if I do it myself."

"But you could get more done," I said.

"I doubt it. What if someone screwed it up? Then I'd just have to do it all over. Nah, I'd rather work some overtime."

If You Want It Done Right, Do It Yourself

I could relate. I don't like losing any control. Who does? But I'd rather learn to invest time, energy and trust in others than work myself to an early grave, which my friend is currently doing.

If you're a leader, whether it's a company, organization, or sports team, you are expected to get things done "through other people".

Delegating Start to Finish

For those that would like a helpful tutorial on delegating, check out the DVD A Leader's Guide to Delegation.  It will walk you through, in detail, the five steps to delegate a project.

  1. Analyze the Task: Get specific about what needs to be done to achieve the goal.
  2. Choose the Right Delegatee: Someone motivated and who has the right skills.
  3. Assign the Task: Give clear instructions on desired outcomes.
  4. Execute the Task: Make sure the delegate has support from you and others.
  5. Conduct Regular Feedback Sessions: Monitor issues and provide time for the person to ask questions.

Four Steps to Overcoming Your Fears

But if you are more like my friend (or me for that matter), it's not so much how to delegate as being afraid to venture in there. It's much less stressful to stay in your comfort zone and doing the task yourself even if it means working longer hours than anyone else.

For those of you who are resisting delegating, here are four ways to get past your fear.

1. Get to know your fear. What fear is calling your name? Are you worried that you'll lose control? Maybe that the project won't get completed? That you will let people down? Or, you hate bugging others?

In an excellent Forbes article, Three Steps To Overcome Your Fear Of Delegation, it suggests not only naming the fear/risk, but also finding ways to minimize it. For example, if you are worried the work won't get done, set up a follow-up system for each task.

2. Keep focused on the bigger picture. Ask your, what am I really trying to accomplish? Am I in charge of completing projects and building a team? If so, that includes delegating. If you're spending your time doing day-to-day tasks, then you are not doing your job.

3. Develop your sense of trust. Those you delegate to are not perfect, nor can you expect perfection. But, you can provide your team with the necessary resources to do a great job, and you can keep those communication doors open. Be aware of issues, and be ready to help your team with them before they become full blown problems.

4. Practice builds precision. People aren't born delegating. It's a learned skill. Practice. In time you'll become better at it and it will get easier.

Be bold. Don't let fear keep you from delegating. 

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.