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From Control to Growth: Mastering Delegation


When my kids were teenagers and I was handing out tasks, I used to assure them my superb delegation skills were a gift to them! Naturally, that was met with groans, eye rolls, and comments under their breath like, “You just don’t want to do the work.”   

And that was the truth.  Instead of doing routine tasks, it made more sense to focus on the important work they couldn’t do (like household finances). Besides, as a parent, my job was to build independent, self-sufficient adults. Delegating tasks enabled them to learn some valuable life skills.  

Now let’s apply this thinking to leadership.  

As a leader, it’s essential to delegate tasks effectively so you build self-sufficient team members who can find their answers and solutions. However, many leaders struggle with delegation. How many times have you heard yourself say:  

“It’s quicker and easier if I do it myself.”  

“How will I know it will get done the right way?”  

“I don’t want to overload my team or dump boring work on them.”   

If that’s your mindset, it’s time to challenge your thinking. These are the thoughts of an individual contributor or worse (cue dramatic music), a micro-manager!   

Effective delegation requires a shift in mindset from “doing the work” to “enabling work through others.” It’s like going from being a soloist in an orchestra to being the conductor. And we need to learn new skills to make that change.  

Leadership skills don’t magically appear when you step into the role. By investing in learning and developing delegation skills, leaders can unlock their team’s potential and help them reach their full capability. 

Avoid the Sand Traps   

When there’s no training, delegation skills are assumed, and expectations are unclear, leaders can fall into one of these categories:  

Doing the Work: This is the “It’s easier if I do it myself” thinking. We default to this thinking for many reasons:    

  1. We don’t trust others to do the work to our standard.  
  2. We don’t want to pressure the team with more work.  
  3. We are used to playing the martyr. 

If you want to halt your own growth, become overwhelmed and demotivate your team, keep doing that. 

 Micro-Managing the Work: No leader would admit they micro-manage. Low trust and high control often manifest as micro-management and it’s a big blind spot for so many. It shows up as hovering or swooping into the details. Anxiousness leads to being overly directive. Some may even take back the work to regain control. This behaviour diminishes learning, stifles creativity, and disempowers and demotivates the team. It’s such a negative space.  

Dumping the Work: This is the opposite of micro-managing.  Work is delegated but with no expectations, guidance, or oversight. I call it abandonment and abdicated leadership. Delegating without direction or support leaves people lost, uncertain, and insecure which wastes time, and impedes progress.     

Delegation is Development  

Here’s a reframe: Instead of seeing delegation as something that slows us down, won’t be done right, or is an imposition on others, what if we saw it as a powerful way to develop people and set them up for success?   

If the heart of leadership is unlocking the potential of others, then delegation is the courageous path to get there.  

In these times of tight professional development budgets, the need for our people to learn and grow doesn’t go away. Research by LinkedIn in 2022 estimates that 87% of the workforce see learning and professional development as crucial elements for their success.   

Delegating tasks helps people apply their strengths, flex new muscles, learn new skills, and put them into action. Work that isn’t challenging for us might be development gold for someone else.  The bonus is it frees up our time to focus on the higher-value work that we can learn and grow within.  

Setting the Stage 

As the proverb goes, “Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.” So how do we teach people to fish and step into the delegation mindset?    

1. Extend Trust 

When it comes to delegation, trust is the essential ingredient. Having the confidence your team can accomplish tasks is mandatory. They may need to learn and build new skills, but you must trust they will succeed. If you struggle with trust, here’s two questions you can ask:  

Have I hired the right people?  

Am I too controlling?  

Either way, it’s your problem to solve. By extending trust and supporting learning, we build confidence and capability in others.  

2. Set Expectations 

Effective delegation starts with clearly communicating expectations about the task, outcomes, accountability, and timeframe. Be clear on what the destination looks like without dictating the exact path to get there. Give people space to ask questions and invite them to share their understanding of what’s being asked of them. This confirms alignment and accountability.    

3. Mentor and Coach 

Delegating time-bound, high-stakes work to someone who’s new and learning rarely goes well. Learning takes time and involves an element of failure before we become confident. We need to create that learning space for our people. The right kind of support shows up as mentorship, coaching, and providing access to resources, information, tools, and people. It involves regular check-ins (not check-ups) to monitor progress, provide feedback, and correct course as needed.  

You can’t be an exceptional leader unless you are a strong delegator.  

Providing new challenges and opportunities fuels growth and learning. The balance is to provide the right amount of support while allowing people enough freedom to make decisions, take ownership of their work, and forge their path. That’s how we create future leaders.     

What gets in the way of you delegating tasks?  

How would delegating help your team learn and grow?  


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