I’m a big fan of delegating tasks to team members. Delegation helps people develop their skills and helps teams achieve a higher level of success.
The Delegation Boomerang
Those of you who have heard me speak would be familiar with the phrase, “Dividing tasks multiplies your chances of success.” That said, it should be mentioned that delegation doesn’t always work. Have you ever delegated a task to one of your subordinates or team members only to see that task pop back up on your personal “to-do” list a few days later? This is called the Delegation Boomerang.
You may be sitting there saying, “Yes, that happens to me all the time.” If so, you may be tempted to think of yourself as a victim, but this is not always the case. Be honest with yourself for a moment. Do you often think the people around you are not capable of doing things as good as you are? Maybe you think they simply can’t do the job at all. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming a “control freak.”
Consider this; every person you meet can teach you something you do not know. We may all like to consider ourselves to be the smartest person in the room, and maybe you are at SOME things, but not EVERY thing. One of the classic signs of micromanagers is that they like to complain about others and convince themselves that the people around them cannot do the job, but the truth is, these people often want the job for themselves, regardless of how much they protest to the contrary.
Some people in leadership positions don’t like giving away responsibility and authority. Many times they say they want others to take the lead, or make the decision, but they really want to maintain that control and look for ways to take it back. To avoid a problem, and sometimes out of sheer frustration, subordinates sometimes just give in and let that person regain total control of the task.
In their mind, it’s easier than putting their blood and sweat into a project only to have the leader blame them for doing something wrong, or redo their work all together because it’s “not good enough.” The situation I am describing is extremely dangerous and can cause a team to collapse.
When delegation fails, subordinates lose motivation and initiative. They start to feel like children with overbearing parents and lose hope in advancing their personal careers or moving into a leadership role themselves.
How can they lead others if their superior doesn’t trust them enough to let then complete simple tasks without intervening? The Delegation Boomerang problem can be challenging for a team leader to fix until he or she determines why it is happening.
Top 4 Reasons Why The Delegation Boomerang Occurs
Reason #1 – Confusion
In their minds, team leaders may be crystal clear in what they are delegating, and the degree of empowerment they are passing, but do the people on the receiving end have the same degree of clarity? If not, they may only complete a portion of the task, because that’s all they thought they were supposed to do. This comes back to the 3U’s I describe in Step Up and Lead – Unaware, Unable, or Unwilling. In this case, the problem is that the designee is unaware of what the assignment is.
Reason #2 – Not Enough Time
If the leader delegates a task and the individual returns a day later with a status or progress report, the leader should be careful in how he or she responds. If his reaction is to make decisions and take back responsibility before the designee had a chance to get started, the leader is subliminally telling the delegate he does not have a high level of confidence in the person. This will result in a lower level of ambition and initiative on the part of the designee.
Reason #3 – Lack of confidence
If the designee doesn’t think he or she is capable of accomplishing a task, he or she may actively look for ways to deflect it back where it came from. This may be what is happening when a leader delegates authority to make decisions, and receives recommendations instead. This could be the person asking to be relieved of authority; however, don’t forget you might also be dealing with the case I described at the beginning of this section – the delegating authority is a micromanager who will never willingly accept the decisions of others.
Reason #4 – Micromanagement
We’ve already covered it, but it also happens to be the #1 reason for the Delegation Boomerang. Micromanagement discourages initiative – period. So, how can you delegate tasks effectively?
The 6 Steps To Delegate Effectively
Step 1 – Establish and maintain an environment that is favorable to delegating.
Step 2 – Select the right person for the job.
Step 3 – Assure the person accepting the assignment understands the assignment.
Step 4 – Keep an open door policy.
Step 5 – Be prepared to accept and deal with the consequences of that person’s actions if he or she does not meet your organization’s expectations.
Step 6 – Always reward performance. Steps 1-3 are the keys to making delegated tasks stay where you put them. The other advice I would offer is “Don’t catch the boomerang.”
If our goal is to develop our team members, we must be confident in our position, but give others a chance to grow. Remember, we are here to solve problems. When someone comes to us with an update and talks about some of the challenges they are encountering, don’t take the task off their hands, ask them what they intend to do. It is okay to discuss options, but don’t take the authority away from them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Resist the temptation to micromanage.
—- Listen to the interview with Frank Viscuso & David Soler about Step & Lead – Click Here