Over the past 25 years of serving as a leader and a consultant, I have seen a number of warning signs that pointed to staff members, business owners, church pastors, and leaders (including myself) not delegating. (You can read about the 7 things that keep leaders from delegating here.)
What happens when you don't delegate...
In ancient history, we have a powerful example through the well-known story of Moses of the challenges a leader can face if they are not delegating. As you look at this story in the following section, pay special attention to the statements that reflect the problem (underlined, verses 14-19) and the solution (BOLD, verses 20-24) defined by Moses’ father-in-law Jethro.
13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions,and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. –Exodus 18
Moses was drowning under the excessive amount of responsibility that he was trying to bear alone. The simple solution in this situation was to delegate tasks to other capable and trustworthy leaders.
If you feel like you have an overload of emails and texts, a never ending stream of problems to solve, and projects that just keep piling up, those are all pretty clear signs that you need to begin delegating. Refusing to delegate can send the message to your team that you do not trust them and can stifle the momentum of your organization or ministry.
Signs that you aren't delegating...
The following signs describe what a leader and his or her team may experience as a result of the leader failing to delegate.
The leader may experience...
Loss of passion for what he or she is doing
Working far too many hours
Inadequate time spent on vision and organizational priorities
Few new ideas or creative initiatives
Leading with “NO” more than “YES”
Declining physical or emotional health
Having trouble sleeping
Becoming emotional more easily than usual
Not meeting deadlines
The organization and team may experience...
Having excessive meetings with supervisors
Feeling under-challenged or limited in opportunity
Important projects or tasks not being completed in a timely manner
Looking for new employment opportunities
Having to seek approval before taking action
Absence of creativity and new initiative
If some of these statements describe you, perhaps it's time to try a different approach to life and work. Start delegating! Delegating will give you time to focus on the really important matters and will give your team the freedom they need to grow. Here are 10 steps to help you start.
For more on the topic of delegation, check out our article "Delegate or Drown" in FIT – Improving the Leadership Health of Yourself and Others
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center Consulting Group and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of organizational assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include an M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Design from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from The Union Institute.