Barriers to delegation

One of the major requirements for delegation to be effective is trust. This trust extends from the leader to the person to whom the task is delegated, from that person to the leader and the leader’s internal perceptions and understandings. Where this trust is incomplete, barriers to delegation will arise. Five typical barriers are described in Table 52.1. Four of these are forms of reluctance by leaders to delegate, and the fifth is a reluctance to accept delegation. Fortunately there is at least one way to break through each of them:

Table 52.1 Typical barriers and ways to break through them
BarrierBreakthrough
RELUCTANCE TO DELEGATE
Fear of loss of control. (This is probably the most common barrier)• Make sure that you believe that getting the job done is worth more to you than having total control. (It usually is!)
• Review the basis of your leadership. If your leadership skills are OK and this is still a problem, make sure you have a clearly defined set of criteria for checking performance and to ensure that at specific times or events, your delegate will check back with you.
The person to whom you delegate might make mistakes• This is something with which you will have to live! Everybody makes mistakes, even you.
• Be prepared to let the person make their mistakes, anticipate the mistakes, be prepared to help when it becomes clear that the person is having difficulty recovering.
You believe that you can do the job better yourselfPerhaps you can, perhaps not. Ask yourself: ‘Can the person do the job adequately in the circumstances?’ If so, your apparent superiority is not an issue.
The person to whom you delegate might do too good a job and show you up• Nobody is perfect at everything - not even you. There will be jobs that other people can do better than you and circumstances where that level of skill is necessary. Then it becomes your duty as a leader to make sure that the best person does the job.
• Your ego and your party will be safe if the person to whom you delegate does do a good job.
• One of your tasks as a leader is to make sure that good leadership continues and that skills are passed around the people with whom you walk or ski.
• If you delegate to a competent person who does a superior job, it reflects well on your maturity as a leader that you encouraged it to happen.
RELUCTANCE TO ACCEPT DELEGATION
Fear of failure• All that any leader can do is to encourage a person to take up the challenge of carrying out the task, support (not dominate or direct) that person and ensure that the task given is not overwhelming.
• Give permission for them to make mistakes and help them to learn constructively from these.