About a year ago, I wrote a column for Profit Magazine – How to Stop Doing Employees’ Work For Them – about how not to fall into the classic leadership trap known as “reverse delegation”, which is the natural tendency that many leaders have to “help” a struggling employee by taking back a task that’s been assigned to him/her.
Reverse delegation occurs far more often than you might realize (or that you are willing to admit), and usually strikes when you fall into the mindset of “It will be faster and easier to just do this myself.” But it’s not good leadership … for two reasons. First, reverse delegation doesn’t permit you to build skills and confidence in your people (a very important job for leaders), and two (and perhaps even more importantly), it simply causes your personal workload to escalate. As a leader, you’re the only one who can manage the leadership tasks of strategic planning, overall organizing, motivating staff and developing people, so if you allow your time to be sucked back into doing stuff that you already asked others to do, you’ll never be able to exercise effective leadership. It’s critical then that you be able to recognize when reverse delegation is happening, and furthermore, how to respectfully and effectively push back when it occurs.
Sometimes people say to me – “I only took the work back because Mary said she is busy, and I don’t want to overload her.” I understand the reasoning behind such a statement, but I would submit that if that’s true, then it’s all the more reason for you to free up your time so that you can seek out ways to streamline overall operations or make the case to hire more people to manage the workload.
In order to avoid falling into the reverse delegation trap, I try to focus on the reasons I should – because it develops well-trained, capable, confident, motivated staff and because it leaves me more time to focus on issues that are strategic in nature. What are some of the things you do to avoid falling into the reverse delegation trap? Please share by commenting below.