Culture Bites Podcast - 002 Dealing with Delegation

Published on 23 Apr 2018

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Delegation – it’s one of the most common issues leaders and managers come to us with. People really struggle with it. Why is that? It’s not about the tips and techniques – there are plenty of courses and workshops on how to delegate, anyone can learn what you need to do, but somehow it still falls over.

In this podcast we talk about what leaders struggle with when it comes to delegation and how they can change their mindset that might be getting in the way of them delegating effectively.



Microphone Key Takeaways and Ideas

Examine how you contribute to the problem: It’s not all going to be about them, so what is it about me that runs interference with my ability to step back from the task?

Power Delegators
Delegation from a Power thinking style can appear as the sell-and-tell delegator. These managers feel they need to be in control and have a very clear view about how things should be done. This approach can be efficient but lacks effectiveness as they minimise the time spent on bringing people along on the journey and therefore they don’t buy in. A question we often ask those leaders is ‘how well do you know your people?’ If you know what excites them and where they want to grow – you can start formulating your thinking about ‘who is best placed to deliver some of this work?’ and ‘what are they going to be energised by?’ ‘Who will be really motivated to take on bits of work?’

Perfectionistic Delegators
Perfectionistic Delegators can have very high standards and expect everyone to meet that standard. Often what they are really worried about is the risk making mistakes and failing. One tip for Perfectionistic Delegators is to write a check list or an example of what good looks like and give it to your people. That way you enable them to self-assess against the example before they bring it to you. It gives both you and them a level of assurance. It’s more effective to motivate people to move towards a desired state rather than getting them to avoid making mistakes or getting things wrong.

Approval Delegators
Approval Delegators can have a lot of apprehension and discomfort around delegating work because they think they might be overloading their team members, or they worry about having to have difficult conversations if the task isn’t done well. In an Approval style – the mindset is ‘what if I upset someone by giving someone a piece of work and then having to coach them through?’ Instead you should look at the situation as ‘I know what this person really wants, where they want to grow, now I can start chunking out bits of work that’s going to help them do that and support them in the process.’ 

Aggressive/Defensive Delegators
Sometimes managers who are Aggressive/Defensive genuinely try to ‘do Constructive’ but go to the other extreme and end up in an Avoidance style. They would prefer to have control but in trying to ‘do constructive’ they just give over a task without support or briefing. Often they genuinely think that is how you empower people. But people need to be competent first – if they aren’t then you’re not going to be confident and the cycle goes around and around. Instead you need to build their competency first by setting them up for success by briefing on what you are looking for and supporting them along the way.

Competitive-Approval Delegators
For managers with a Competitive-Approval streak they can get into a sticky spot where they keep saying ‘yes’ to their boss and peers - they then waterfall all those tasks down. The issue is not having boundaries around what is a reasonable expectation of what they can deliver and that is often because they don’t want to be in a position where they have to say ‘I’m over loaded’. It takes courage to be clear about how much work your team can do, and what to say ‘no’ to.

Napkin Tool
There are only two things that are finite – time and energy. That’s why it is really important for a leader to be really clear on where their time and energy is actually required. A simple way of doing that is using this napkin tool. Write down everything you do. Sort it into High value-low value. High value are all the things only you can do as a leader. The moderate or lower value are thing you can either stop doing or delegate. This tool can help you get clear boundaries on your time and energy.
Napkin Tool


Do you have a question about a real life situation which you’d like our advice on?  Email us at

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