If you’re like many managers, you sometimes find yourself resisting delegating a piece of work or a responsibility to someone on your team because you're worried that it won’t be done well enough. But in most cases, if you give in to this impulse, you're forfeiting the benefit of having a team, which is to allow you to get better results – in part by having more people doing the work, but also in part to free you up to spend your time on things that only you can do.
Here are some of the most common reasons managers resist delegating and why you should delegate anyway in these cases – along with one time when you shouldn’t.
“They won't care about it as much as I do.”
Ever feel this way? You might worry that if someone doesn’t care about a responsibility as much as you do, they might not do it with the same sense of urgency or attention to detail. Maybe they won’t put as much energy into it as you want them to. Or maybe you don’t trust that they’ll remember to take care of it regularly if it’s an ongoing thing.
If you have the right person in the role and you’ve correctly set up the task for them (including doing things like talking through how to do it well, what could go wrong, its importance and the context for why it matters), you should be able to trust them to care as much as you do – or at least enough that the work will be well done. If you don’t, that’s a flag to figure out why. Maybe you need to prep them better for the work, or maybe you don’t have the right person in the role.
“They won’t do it the same way I would do it.”
This might be true! And it might end up being to your benefit. Part of the advantage of having a staff is that you’re getting multiple brains to work on a problem and figure out the best way to approach it. Assuming you don’t think that no one will ever have a better, more creative idea than you (you don’t think that, right?), your best bet here is to encourage people to look for better ways to do things, even if they’re different from yours. Your role is to ensure that the outcome is what you need, but it’s often okay if someone takes a different path to get there (as long as they’re not sacrificing things like accuracy, final quality, or service to customers along the way).
“They can't do it as fast as I can.”
This might be true too! But if you let them try their hand at it, they’ll probably start getting faster over time. But even if they don’t, it’s still often going to save your time, which can be better spent on work that only you can do.
“They can’t do it as well as I can.”
Another one that might be true! But if you want to make full use of your team – which will help you get better results in the long-term – you’re going to need to give people opportunities to develop their skills so that they can make larger contributions to the work. That doesn’t mean that you should delegate everything, of course, but it does mean that you should be vigilant about spending your time in the areas where it will pay off the most, not just in the areas where you might be a bit better than a staff member.
Otherwise, you could easily spend most of your days on small things where you add some value and never get to the work where you add the most value – and the latter is what will most powerfully drive your work forward.
“I really enjoy doing it.”
If you truly enjoy a particular task and find it fulfilling, it’s not crazy to hold on to it, as long as it doesn’t drain your energy or keep you away very long from more important work. If something energizes you and makes you like your job more, it can make sense to continue doing it yourself, traditional delegation advice notwithstanding. (But if you find yourself saying that about multiple tasks you should otherwise delegate, that’s a flag to do a gut-check.)