Delegation dilemmas: you know you should but fear they won’t

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Every good leader knows that to free up time, you need to delegate / empower other people to help you, by ‘handing over the baton’ on certain tasks … simple!

But delegation is risky:

– What if they make a mess of the task?

– What if they don’t do it on time?

– What if they keep hassling you to go back over the instructions you originally shared with them?

When leaders are brave or desperate enough to delegate, their common delegation C.R.I.M.E.S. often undermine the success of the process, leading to unfavourable results and some misleading assumptions.

If you want a job done properly, you need to do it yourself!

If only I had a bunch of capable people on my team, then I’d be able to delegate … this lot will never step up.

But here’s the truth: the problem is not your team, it’s your horrible delegation C.R.I.M.E.S. which you’re most probably guilty of!bill-oxford-udXD2NrbXS8-unsplash (1)

… and let’s be clear, the consequences of your C.R.I.M.E.S. are:

  1. Under-performing teams who resent the fact you don’t trust them.
  2. Dis-empowered teams who rely on YOU as the one person to put in the extra shift and take the initiative.
  3. Stressed out leaders who juggle too many jobs, but refuse to delegate because they ‘CAN’T’ (won’t).
  4. Under-developed teams, deprived of the opportunity to stretch themselves, make mistakes and benefit from the learning.

So lets unpack these C.R.I.M.E.S. so you know what to avoid and how to get better results when you delegate, because when your results improve, you will experience a game-changing truth:

Done well, delegation saves time and strengthens teams.


Control: You want to delegate the task but seek to control every aspect of progress after you’ve delegated it.

– The processes must be to your liking!

– The order and pace of the processes must be to your liking!

Control freak delegators stifle their delegates because progress occurs when people start thinking for themselves about:

– What might work or not?

– Where are the hazards?

– What is the best order of steps to be completed?

If you’re trying to control things from afar, this isn’t delegation, it’s dumping, and dumping creates resentful robots, NOT successful superstars. Controlling delegators become bossy delegators and working for bossy people is soul destroying and annoying, so people on the receiving end of the bossiness lose interest in the task and are more likely to do a half-hearted job.

At best, when you dish out your instructions, people will zone in and out of what you’re saying as most of us can only remember a few things in one go and instruction overload is like a bewildering bombardment. Instead, involve your delegates in how to progress the task by encouraging a 2-way conversation and avoiding long lists of instructions.


Rushed: When we delegate something, we’re often in a rush (in fact, it’s because we’re in a rush that we’re delegating). And when we’re in a rush, we do what we always do, we cut corners and experience outcomes which reflect those cut corners! When we’re in a rush:

– We delegate to the wrong people (more on that in a moment)

– We don’t clarify exactly what we want (more on that in a moment)

– We focus on a speedy handover because time is ticking.

– Our delegation process becomes a few quick-fire instructions at best.

– We forget to check in with our delegates, leaving them feeling isolated and dumped on.

Everyone is guilty of delegating in a rush from time to time, but just make sure its the exception not the norm!


Imply: you delude yourself that you’ve spelled it out to your delegates, your instructions are clear and there is no possible way that they could have misunderstood you. But when you said:

You need to do a particularly good job on this

But what does ‘good’ specifically mean?

SPELL IT OUT: which bits of this job are the real deal breakers and which are the deal makers?

Imagine you asked your teenage daughter to clean her room: I’m guessing your version of clean and her version of clean could be miles apart. So if you have an idea of the job you want done, be clear about what CLEAN actually means.

When you delegate to anyone, your kids at home, your team at work, your peers and colleagues … DON’T IMPLY … CLARIFY!


Myopic: With no long term strategy, you want to wash your hands of the task as quickly as possible because you’re overstretched, in a hurry, or bored. You just want to off load the task so you’ll spend less time thinking about your delegation process or how to develop the expertise of your delegates (which would save you time in the long run).

With only the short term in mind, you’re less likely to analyse the results and lessons learned when the task is completed and the next time you need to delegate … you’ll be thinking short term because it’s your habit when you delegate: no one wins, no one improves.


Ease: We want an easier day, an easier life, an easier future. It’s why we’re trying to pass on the baton, but our desire for ease can make us selfish and lazy, focussing Me on Me.

Ease motivates us to find a doer who is most likely to say yes rather than the right person for the job. Ease leads us to cut corners, where crucial pieces of information can be missed. Ease makes us give up more quickly if the results are not exactly as we want them first time round.


Selection: Because of ease, short sightedness and being in a rush, you select the wrong person for the job:

oh, thingymijig can do it”

  • But is ‘thingymijig’ really up to the task? (and his name is Paul btws)
  • OR are you setting him up to fail? (which will crush his confidence)

If you want to save you time, then nail your selection process:

– Can he/she genuinely do the task to the standard you need and within the timescale?

– Can he/she step up?

– Is he/she ready to step up now or is a period of preparation necessary first?

People aren’t always ready today, but most people can be developed over time, so long as they have an open and flexible mindset AND so long as we’re patient and live with the long term in mind.


Involve your delegates in HOW to deliver the task. Even if you think you’re the expert with decades of experience, give your newbie the space and time to experiment and think for themselves.

Create balance between asking questions and barking out orders. The latter is sometimes necessary but being on the receiving end of constant instructions is boring and demoralising.

Build healthy relationships with your delegates. Most people are much happier to go the extra mile and do a good job for people they like and respect. Avoid the 6 deadly C.R.I.M.E.S. of delegation.

If you ❤️ this post, check out my recent TEDx talk: Domestic Abuse, not a gender issue, where I describe my experiences of abuse, why I stayed, how I forgave and the wider issues faced by male survivors. (See YouTube link below)

Andrew Pain is a high performance coach and TEDx speaker, serving people from all walks of life, enabling them to live boldly, wisely and with less stress, so they live life on their own terms and realise their most precious dreams. In his spare time, he is a domestic abuse campaigner, co-leading a pilot project to support male survivors of domestic abuse.

Published by andrewpain1974

TEDx / Keynote Speaker, High Performance Coach and Domestic Abuse Campaigner. - I help people to get more done, but without getting busier or burnt out. - I transform overworked business leaders who feel swamped by conflicting priorities and a never-ending 'to-do' list, equipping them to lead boldly, decisively and with less stress. - I deliver productivity workshops and online programmes, executive coaching and keynote talks, working with organisations including; the NHS, The Cooperative Bank, Lloyds Bank, Youth Offending Service, The Institute of Leadership and Management, The Association of Project Managers and RoSPA. My 3 principal keynote talks are: - Get more done without getting busier or burnt out - Delegation Dilemmas: You know you should but fear they won't - Boundaries: Your leadership game changers

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