Struggling to Delegate

Why do so many leaders find themselves struggling to delegate? After working with hundreds of leaders, I’ve found this could be the hardest leadership skill to master. Hopefully, this post helps you see your barriers so you can conquer them!

At the beginning of a client’s journey to Running on EOS™, we discuss The Five Leadership Abilities™. Delegate is the second leadership ability. By using the Delegate and Elevate™ Tool, leaders identify their sweet spot (the things they love to do and are great at doing).

A Leader’s Journey to Delegating

This early in the leadership journey, I rarely see leaders proactively delegating work through their first Accountability Chart assignment. Why? Most leaders haven’t yet realized that they’re in control of their work rather than the business dictating their work. Sound familiar?

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

The EOS® version is: When the leader is ready, the Delegate and Elevate Tool appears. 

The journey starts when a leader realizes there has to be another way to get the work done. It’s also when the real barriers to actually delegating the work become visible because most barriers are leader-made. 

When my clients start to believe they can run their business another way, then the work of really delegating and elevating begins. Here are the most common barriers AND what you can do to remove them:

Right Person, Right Seat Problem

When my clients struggle with delegating, the number one barrier I see is not having the right people in the right seats. Without the right team, a leader will never feel comfortable handing off a job to someone else. 

When someone doesn’t fit the team culture (right person) or can’t fully embrace their role (right seat), they cannot make meaningful contributions to the organization. Allowing this to go on doesn’t serve the person’s well-being or the greater good of the business. 

Allowing people to sit in the wrong seat for several roles throughout the company creates a real problem for the longevity and health of the organization. 

Solution: I walk my clients through creating The Accountability Chart™ structure that will best serve the company. We focus on structure first and people second. Usually, leaders can quickly tell if they have a Right Person, Right Seat problem. If they’re being honest, they can tell if someone gets it, wants it, and has the capacity (GWC™) to do the role. 

Because when you know you have the best person in the role, you can feel better about passing off appropriate tasks to them.

Process or Data

Without a clearly defined and repeatable process, leaders often think it’s easier to continue doing a task themselves. They haven’t written anything down or shown someone else how to do something exactly how they do it. 

Even if the leader hates the task, they can’t pass it off to someone else because no one else knows how to do it. So if they get sick or have a family emergency, everything would grind to a halt. 

Going hand-in-hand with process problems is a need for more data. Data helps confirm whether a task accomplishes the desired outcomes. If the leader cannot see objective evidence that people are doing things in a way that’s working, they can’t feel confident passing it off. 

Solution: As a leader, take the time to document their core processes, ensuring clear responsibilities and handoffs. With processes documented and Followed By All, you can focus on the Scorecard measurables that reflect what success looks like.

Ego

Remember: When the leader is ready, the Delegate and Elevate Tool appears. 

“Ready” means accepting help, even in the form of a simple four-quadrant tool some random guy named Gino created. (Psst… The italicized text is your ego talking!)

Ego isolates leaders because it closes off the ability to really listen and receive input. Secretly, many of us get a boost in our confidence by being the smartest person in the room. But that’s a case of an inflated sense of self-importance, aka too much ego. 

A second form of the ego barrier is in too little ego, and accepting the pain of overwork as my job because everyone else on my team is overworked. In this case, the leader reframes the suffering in their role as doing their team a favor by not making them do the thing. Eventually, guilt, resentment, or burnout creeps in and impacts their interactions with the team. Meanwhile, someone on the team has a deep passion for the task and would happily complete it if given the chance.

Solution: First, name your ego issue! That will open up the conversation where you get to know the passions and skills of each team member. When you know your people, it increases your comfort level in passing tasks to them from your Delegate and Elevate exercise. 

You’ll actually see how finding tasks in each individual’s personal core focus gives them a chance to contribute and feel more engaged in the company’s success. Soon your ego barrier melts away.

Delegate to Elevate Everyone

So, feeling ready to own this? EOS was designed to help you achieve what we call The EOS Life®. A key part of that is doing the work you love. 

The outcome: Keeping leaders focused on their passions and highest-value tasks helps strengthen the entire company. Asking for help with tasks by delegating and elevating to team members helps everyone work to their highest potential.

When the leader is ready, the Delegate and Elevate Tool appears.

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