THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Ruling matters: Delegate or die (of embarrassment)

Most managers know they should be delegating, but many managers still don't do it. They say they can't, and they cite instances where they are great and their staff is not. But the truth is that managers who don't delegate would be embarrassed if they could see themselves as they appear to others.

A boss who delegates builds trust among the staff and helps them to grow. This should be motivation enough to clear everything off your plate by delegating it. If you are still having trouble delegating, here's something else that might motivate you: You look like a fool.

1. You look arrogant

The most common barrier managers face when delegating is that they think they can do the work better if they do it themselves. Newsflash: No one cares. All work does not need to be done the way you would do it. In fact, usually work does not need to be done perfectly to be done well. If you want to aim for perfection (which you shouldn't), try to be a perfect manager and applaud your employees who have evolved personally to be beyond perfectionism.

2. You look incompetent

Remember when you were three months out of college and someone finally let you do something beside straighten files? Well, whatever you did, believe me, you did it very poorly at first. But someone let you try and helped you to grow. So return the favor by helping someone else to grow. And do not redo their work once they finish. If you can't coach someone to do good work, it is your fault: You are either an incompetent coach and need to get better or you are coaching someone incompetent you need to fire.

3. You scream "Demote me!"

If you are bad at delegating you end up devaluing your own time.

Imagine this scenario: Microsoft is giving a demo to developers in Zimbabwe. Certainly the person who would do the best job at this presentation would be Bill Gates. But flying to one of the smallest markets in the world (and probably risking his life) to give a demo is a terrible use of Bill Gates' time.

If you do work that your staff should be doing, then you announce to everyone that your time is worth the same as that of your staff members: You will never be promoted. And, if justice is served, people who cannot delegate will be demoted to a spot in the hierarchy where they are supposed to be doing the work instead of delegating it.

Take the test: One hour of work is OK

Admittedly, there is some (very little) work that you absolutely cannot delegate, such as writing a weekly report to your boss. (Although you can delegate the brunt of this work by collecting weekly updates from your direct reports and cutting-and-pasting to create your own report.)

Set aside an hour or so at the beginning of your workday to get your own work done. If you try to set aside time in the middle of the day you are likely to get derailed by an emergency from one of your staff members. If you need more than an hour, you are not delegating enough: Remember, your job is to manage the work, not do it.

Delegating is one of the rare things that is both good for your career and good for the world. A person who delegates is a person who has trust: Trust in their own talent to lead, and trust in their staff's talent to perform.

So get everything off your plate today. Your staff will love you for trusting them, and you will learn a lot about yourself by facing your fear that people will not do things the way you would do them.