6 Warning Signs It’s Time To Delegate

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As a leader, transitioning from being an expert who predominantly contributes as an individual, to a leader whose focus is to contribute through others, can be a challenge for many new leaders. 

While rolling your sleeves up and doing the day to day work with your team may demonstrate your enthusiasm and willingness to your manager, you are only delaying the inevitable shift from doing to leading.   

Over time, your responsibilities as a leader become more complex and the goals you have to achieve with your team will only be realised when your contribution is through others. 

So, what are the warning signs that signal it’s time to delegate? 

1. You Start Earlier And Leave Later Than Your Team

Who is he first to arrive in the office? Who is still there when you leave? If the answer to both questions is “usually me”, then it’s time to do things differently and start delegating some of your projects and work. 

While you may be feeling indispensable, it’s likely your team are experiencing a touch of frustration at the lack of opportunity to develop their skills. (Plus you’re not demonstrating a healthy work/life balance!)

2. Lack of Trust In Your Team 

Many leaders avoid delegating because they think that by the time they have talked to one of their team and delegated the task, it’s quicker to do it themselves. Plus, they often think they can do the job better and so will get it done the way they want 

If alarm bells are ringing and you’re thinking that’s me, it’s a warning sign you’re not delegating enough. 

Yes, I appreciate that you will need to invest some time initially delegating and ensuring the person knows what to do and how to, or if they need training. Imagine though the time you have regained to focus on other priorities knowing you have freed yourself up from having to do that task again. Consider the logic of your thought process. By spending a few hours training an employee how to do something, you free yourself from doing that task forever. 

Which leads on to my next point.  

3. Important And Priority Tasks Are Getting Delayed

If you are finding your days being consumed by mundane tasks, you won’t be creating time to focus on the crucial jobs and projects that you are responsible for 

It’s easy to start your day checking emails and allowing yourself to be drawn into a variety of 
situations and responses that can be easily handled by your team, should you choose to delegate them.

Deciding what your key priorities are and delegating the rest to your team is important to ensure you and your team achieve your goals. 

4. You’re Managing Other Peoples Monkeys

How often does a team member ask if you have five minutes for a quick chat? Twenty minutes later you know the detail of their problem and find yourself saying, “let me think about it, and I’ll come back to you.” 

Suddenly your team members problem ‘monkey is now on your shoulders, and your todo list just grew.  

When a manager picks up a team members monkey, it sends a message that the employee lacks the skills to care for and feed the monkey themselves.  

William Oncken, Jr and Donal L. Wass said in their original HBR article “Managers who grab monkeys off their people’s backs often kill employee initiative, and everyone is left waiting for the boss to make the next move.”

5. Deadlines Are Missed

How often do you notice your manager, clients and peers are chasing you because you have missed a deadline or promised to get back to them and you haven’t? 

Yes, we are all human, and we get caught up in events that are beyond our control. However, when it becomes a pattern and you find yourself apologising too often, something isn’t working for you:
you’re not delegating.   

6. Team Members Are Not Ready For Promotion  

The 70:20:10 model for learning and development demonstrates that employees learn in the following way. 

70% from challenging assignments 

20% from developmental relationships 

10% from coursework and training 

If team members are not having challenging assignments delegated to them that test and develop their skills, it will have several consequences long term for the business. 

1. When promotion opportunities arise, people in your team will not be ready to apply.

2. If employees are passed over for promotion due to a lack of development, they may become demotivated which impacts their productivity.  

3. If the lack of opportunity for growth continues, employees look elsewhere, within or outside
the organisation.

Either way, if you have a consistent flow of team members leaving, senior managers will be alerted and wonder what’s happening, or more pertinently, what isn’t happening?  

How comfortable has it been for you to read this article? Do you recognise a few behaviours that are a little close to home? If you do – good – now you have an opportunity to make changes. 

Great leaders delegate, poor leaders, don’t. Which do you want to be?  

We have written many times over the last few years about the power of delegation on the Excel blog, here and here. 

It is something many leaders still find a challenge, and yet if you want your team to step up and step out, it’s a critical skill to develop. 




Rachel Hewitt-Hall 


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