Delegation: why it doesn’t work and what to do

Do you live in a constant time pressure and do not have time for anything, have problems with sleep and decreased concentration? Most likely, this means that it is time to master delegation. And the sooner, the better, until you finally collapse into emotional burnout, do not lose your taste for work and life in general.

But as they say, it’s easy to say. In practice, not everyone succeeds in mastering delegation. Even clear leaders and natural leaders have difficulties. According to a study by London Business School professor John Hunt, only 10% of managers delegate authority and do it successfully.

In the article we will understand why delegation is not easy, how to solve emerging problems and, finally, free yourself from routine for more important strategic tasks.

Why delegation is so important

When a person starts his own business, in the first couples he often does everything himself, if this is not a new project of an accomplished entrepreneur who has a team or sufficient capital to immediately assemble it. The owner himself calculates taxes, maintains paperwork, and is engaged in the main production activity. Over time, he hires an accountant, secretary, salesperson and delegates some of the functions to them.

Usually, delegation is viewed in the context of leaders and top management of organizations. However, this skill is also useful for ordinary specialists who have at least one assistant subordinate to them. And also for freelancers and self-employed people who would like to scale their income.

For example, a PPC specialist has routine tasks that take a lot of time. Composing ads, clustering semantics, filling in the settings in the advertising office – all this can be packaged into standard checklists. This means that you can delegate. There are also related operations, such as financial management and document management, that should be delegated first in order to focus on the main processes.

Do it all yourself or delegate and take two additional projects?
Do it all yourself or delegate and take two additional projects?

However, few people do this, among freelancers, executives, and business owners. One of the reasons may lie in the fact that not everyone fully understands why this is needed – and this is how it works. Therefore, to begin with, let’s figure out why it is so important to master delegation and what it helps to do.

Make good use of your time. Sadly, there are only 24 hours in a day. And you also need to sleep, do household chores, communicate with loved ones and find time for yourself. If a person in business or freelance tries to do everything himself, something is sure to suffer. Either there is no time for life, or the hands do not reach strategically important matters on which income and development depend – everything is eaten up by the operating system.

Look at the processes globally. When a leader or business owner is drowning in the operating system, he does not have enough time and focus to see the project as a whole, to find problems and growth points.

Develop employees. If we talk about a business that already has hired workers, they do not grow professionally without delegation. Or they grow more slowly than they could.

Scale business and profits. It is important for both a businessman and a freelancer to scale their business: get more cool projects and increase income. This is impossible without delegation, at least because resources – both temporary and human – are limited. At the start, the project develops by increasing the load on its owner, but sooner or later there will be nowhere to increase it and the process will stop.

Develop management skills. By delegating, the manager learns to correctly set tasks, select performers in accordance with their qualifications, motivate, etc. All this improves the skills of business and team management, which in the future will help build more efficient processes and increase the productivity of the team.

While you are assessing your situation and deciding if it’s time for you to start delegating, we move on to the reasons why something might go wrong.

Why you can’t delegate and what to do

The reasons why delegation does not work can be individual. People have their own internal psychological barriers: fears of failure, being unnecessary, losing control, and much more. It is difficult to say something specific here, you need to look for problems within yourself on your own or with a psychologist.

We have identified 6 objective difficulties that managers, owners and freelancers face when trying to delegate.

Incorrect problem statement

When a person has no experience of delegation, it seems that it is enough to say “do this and that” and you will get the desired result. But it doesn’t work that way. An employee arrives with a completed task, but everything is wrong and wrong.

For example, a PPC specialist took an assistant, gave him a list of keys, and instructed him to write ads for a campaign. A newbie sends a file, and there the phrases are not entered, the headers do not fit into the restrictions by the characters, the advantages are not the same. Why did it happen? It’s simple – the assistant takes on this task for the first time and does not know the nuances, but the specialist thought that this was obvious and self-evident.

Decision. In order not to get an unpredictable result and not be disappointed in delegation forever, learn to set tasks correctly: specifically, with deadlines and a description of the result that should be obtained. Consider the professional level of the person to whom you entrust the business. If this is a beginner, it will not be superfluous to draw up detailed instructions, prescribe technical requirements, provide for all the points in which you can make a mistake.

What does a correctly set task consist of?


Perfectionists believe that everything must be done perfectly. They demand this from themselves and from others. Moreover, they are often sure that no one will do better than them. It is psychologically difficult for such people to delegate, because the result will not be as good as we would like. Because of this, the completion of the task is delayed: a person completes it himself or sends it for endless improvements until it becomes perfect.

Imagine, you entrusted the creation of creatives to a designer, and then the fonts are not the same, then the colors, then the accents. The number of iterations is approaching the second ten, and it’s time to launch the campaign. They spat, did it themselves and refused to delegate.

Decision. In fact, perfectionism interferes not only with delegating, but also with living in general: working, developing, building relationships. Therefore, the right decision here would be, if you do not get rid of it, then at least take control. And for this, the first step is to admit the problem, learn to let go of the situation and allow mistakes – for yourself and others. More on Fighting Perfectionism read in our article

It also happens

Lack of time

Paradoxically, in order to free up time with delegation, you first need to spend that time. Selection of employees and contractors, standardization of processes, creation of instructions and checklists, setting tasks, training and control at first – all this time.

When a person lives in a regime of endless rush jobs, it can be very difficult to carve out at least a couple of hours a week for this. It’s time to launch a campaign, statistics have accumulated on the other three – we need to optimize, and also negotiations with a new client and discussion of a further strategy with old ones. When is there to look for and teach assistants?

Decision. Nothing will help here except competent planning and freeing up time for delegation. Yes, it always seems that the current operational and production tasks are more important: the work will not do itself, and this can wait. But reasoning in this way, a person will never get out of the squirrel wheel, but it will rotate faster and faster.

So just stop and imagine: you spend 10–20 hours one time delegating a task that takes you 10 hours a week. This time can be spent on training and development or taking on new projects – both will help increase income.

Of course, you can increase income from contextual advertising in another way by connecting to affiliate program… It allows you to receive up to 18% of the advertising costs of clients. But mastering delegation is still worth it: more clients, more budget, more deductions.

How much time will you spend debugging delegation and how much can you free up with it

No specific goals

Above, we said that hands often do not reach delegation, because it is not clear why. But even the realization of the benefits may not be motivating, because there is no clear and measurable result before the eyes. We do not see where we will come if we delegate, and even so, everything seems to work fine. It seems to be necessary, but it seems to be useless.

Decision. Setting the goal of delegation according to all the rules: clear, specific, realistic, measurable and limited in time can help to get the process off the ground.

For example, a freelance specialist at the beginning of the year says to himself: I want to earn 2 times more by the end of the year. If everything is left as it is, nothing will work: it has reached the ceiling, there are more projects than there are in the work, it will not work, and the average check is already almost at the maximum in the market. The way out is to assemble a team and delegate. And when you see doubled income on the horizon, it will be easier to carve out the time to search and learn.

The scheme of the correct setting of goals according to the principles of SMART

No standardized processes

This problem most often manifests itself when we have already started delegating, but it did not work. Instead of saving time, we are wasting it even more, and there is no end in sight.

For example, a contextual advertising specialist decided to entrust the management of simple projects to a novice assistant, but did not give clear algorithms, checklists and instructions. As a result, the person first collected the semantics and wrote the ads, then began to watch the brief – they had to redo it. The specialist arrives at 20 questions per hour, and it takes so much time that it is easier and faster to do it yourself.

Decision. To avoid this scenario, it is worth starting delegation with standardizing processes. This also takes time, but the investment will pay off. Algorithms and instructions compiled once will save tens of hours in the future.

Simple checklists are easy to assemble in Google Sheets

Attempts to delegate the wrong thing

The leader decided to start delegating, but assigns the assistant to the smallest and simplest tasks, which do not take much time. For example, it is pointless to delegate replies to letters and messages when they come up to ten a day: you will save almost nothing.

The other extreme is the delegation of strategically important directions, which it is advisable to do on your own. In the example of a contextual advertising specialist, this might be negotiations with clients. The hired employee does not have the same motivation to get a client as the specialist himself does. And he will not be able to solve the delicate issues of the terms of cooperation: he does not know where he can give up money or agree to in-depth reporting in order to get a cool project.

Decision. For delegation to be effective, it is important to delegate only those tasks and functions that:

  • take a lot of your time;

  • not critical for the existence of the project;

  • the employee or contractor will be able to perform without loss of quality.

What can and cannot be delegated

6 helpful books on delegation

Finally, we want to share a selection of books that will help you better understand the nuances of delegation:

  • “Success by someone else’s hands. Effective Delegation of Authority ”, Maria Urban;

  • “How to delegate authority. 50 lessons on stickers ”, Sergey Potapov;

  • Delegation of Authority, Keith Keenan;

  • Delegation and Governance, Brian Tracy;

  • One Minute Manager and Situational Leadership, Kenneth Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, Drea Zigarmi;

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

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