What gets in the way of delegating?

Date: Saturday, March 26, 2011 by GTD Times Staff

I was leading a GTD class recently, and one of the participants was asking me how to be better at delegating. In my experience, issues with delegation typically come down to some common factors:

  • It’s not clear who should do it (i.e. unclear Areas of Focus)
  • If the person delegating is not clear on their own inventory, in their integrity and confidence they won’t feel like they can hand off things to others (doesn’t quite fly to say, “I can’t do this because I have a gnawing sense of overwhelm–but can you?”)
  • If the person delegating doesn’t have a clear way to track what they are handing off (a la Waiting For or Agenda lists) they won’t feel confident in handing things off
  • Perfection (anyone ever have the feeling “I can do it better/faster myself?”)
  • People often feel funny using the word “delegate” with peers or their managers–so just call it “hand off” instead (truly–tricks that like can work)
  • The person delegating is not clear what they are even delegating

My Agenda and Waiting For lists are often my longest lists. I have Agendas for all of the key people I meet with or report to on a regular basis. My Waiting For list (currently 68 items) tracks anything and everything I may want to rein back in at some point.  To me, these lists are like fishing lines off a boat and I just need trusted and easy ways to reel things back in when I need them.

How well do you handle delegation? Do you ever hesitate to delegate something to others? If so, why?

Kelly Forrister is a senior coach and presenter with the David Allen Company

3 Responses to “What gets in the way of delegating?”

  1. Mark Cheek says:


    What I have found is that most people stumble on ‘how to best approach people’ to delegate. Also, as you also stated, they don’t know how to specify reporting standards for when the work is done.

    One tool I have found that makes delegation consitent, easy, relatively pain free, and faster as you build your relationships is the framework / script provided by Manager Tools.

    You can find more about it for free in their management trinity / podcast section here


    Highly recommended.

  2. Kim Chipper says:

    I’m now retired so this is in retrospect. Most people I mentor and in myself, have found that the person you are going to delegate to expects you to do it.
    Otherwise, why are they there.
    It comes back to hiring a dog and doing your own barking.
    The person to whom you are delegating expects guidelines and coaching but let them get on with the job.
    For a long time (in the 1970s) I was shy of giving other people work to do that I could do myself. It took me many years to overcome that attitude.

  3. Jake Hartvigsen says:

    My biggest problem/fear with delegating is the sense that everyone else is so busy as well that I feel guilty giving more tasks and projects to them. How do you overcome that fear?

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