Overcoming the 3 Barriers to Delegation

by Jul 26, 2023EOS, Insights, Professional Development, Resources, Self awareness

At the beginning of every EOS journey is Focus Day. It’s a day dedicated to establishing the leadership team, setting rocks, and learning about the five leadership abilities and how you can use them to create breakthrough moments for your business and yourself as a leader. One of those five leadership skills necessary for success as an entrepreneurial leader is delegation. For companies running on EOS, delegation really starts with two things:

  1. An accountability chart for the team you need to support the work the organization needs from your function
  2. Your own understanding of what you love to do and are good at doing, which is the foundation of what help you will need from your team to be successful. It is that simple, and never that easy.

As a leader, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like the responsibility of doing every task falls onto you, which is a stressful place to be!

Let me ease your mind: You don’t have to do it alone.

I see so many leaders implementing EOS with their teams struggling to let go of the massive pile of work on their plate. After working with hundreds of teams and their leaders—as well as many hours of introspection—here are the top three barriers I see that prevent people from delegating work, plus how you can avoid them.

Right Person, Right Seat

No plan, however masterfully crafted, will be successful without the right people doing the work. Until you can honestly say all of your team members are the right people (for example, they fit your core values) and they are in the right seat (they GWC the work you need them to do), delegating will be difficult because of how much energy would be required to manage the work and the stress that comes with solving daily problems. But, the right talent will earn the trust you need to let the work go.

I have made it a habit to ask leadership teams a single question after defining the 3-Year Picture or setting annual goals:

“Do you have the right people on your team right now to achieve this 3-Year Picture or these goals?”

When leaders answer this question honestly, often the answer ends up being no. After annual planning, prioritize making the necessary changes to the accountability chart and have a conversation with your team about what new skills are needed. You’d be surprised how often somebody asks to own the new work, and dedicates themselves to developing the skills to truly GWC that work. If the talent isn’t there, then it’s easier to get the support to go hire it.

With EOS, you have the tools to clearly define what Right Person/Right Seat looks like, and your challenge as the leader is to get better at having proactive conversations with your team to get their input and support. Once you get to 100% RPRS, you will never want to go back, and delegate and elevate will just become how you work.

Data and Process

Another key barrier to delegating is captured in one simple sentence I hear from the mouths of my clients: “It’s easier to just do it myself!” I say this myself, and when it comes to a key deliverable or after-hours work maybe you’re right. But what about three months, six months, a year down the road, when you have more responsibilities on your plate? Yes, it takes time and effort, but taking the time to establish data sources and create processes is the solution. Here’s what I mean.

When I say data, I’m talking about the ways you track the progress, quality or effectiveness of the work delegated to another team member. While some projects have hard data, like on time deliveries or PPM rates or set tasks to check on a list, this also applies to less concrete methods of reviewing progress including:

  • Holding multiple review sessions throughout a project,
  • Establishing and checking daily or weekly benchmarks,
  • Checking a work plan before the team member completes the work, or
  • Setting a goal to report on project status at regular intervals.

In EOS, one of the core components is process, and when it’s strong, the key work that has to be done the right and best way everyday is defined, people are trained, and there are clear metrics in place to see how well the process is working. By using data and documenting processes, you are making the act of delegating easy. Process, coupled with good data, allow your team to think like you, easily manage their own performance, and proactively support each other. It makes your LMA simpler and you’re also helping your team grow into their own roles at your organization.

Ego: Too Much, and Too Little

The final barrier is a big, but simple word: Ego. Ego gets in the way of us all. Having too much ego can cause a leader to complete all the work on their own, feeling like no one can live up to their high standards. Sometimes called “the smartest person in the room syndrome,” it shows up with a lot of telling and micromanaging. Telling is not delegating. The other outcome it creates is preventing team members from learning new skills and developing the confidence to independently handle bigger and more strategic work in the future.

Too little ego causes a leader to hold onto work in the name of helping their team. They might feel guilty passing off work to others, they may struggle with imposter syndrome, or their leadership confidence is simply eroded. No matter the case, the result almost always ends up being burnout. A leader with burnout becomes a leader that is incapable of making delegatory decisions.

In their own unique ways, leaders with either too much or too little ego need to learn to ask their team for help. Leaders with too much ego can grow to understand delegation gives them the opportunity to coach others and ultimately help their team improve. Leaders with too little ego, remember your team is there precisely to help, and asking for help is a sign of preserving strong leadership, not weakening it.

Accept Your Team’s Support

Delegating work to colleagues is challenging. We want to trust our team to do great work, but we don’t always have the right people in the right seats to do so. Sometimes, we don’t have the tools in place to delegate effectively. And, more often than not, we need to do some self-reflection to determine when we’re getting in our own way.

Overcoming the barriers to delegation gives us the opportunity to establish a stronger team and gifts the leadership team more time to focus on their most important tasks. For more tips on how to take down the barriers to delegation and other tools for implementing EOS in your workplace, reach out to me. I’d love to set up some time to chat.

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