How To Overcome 3 Delegation Barriers

Author: Bells Breakthrough Leadership Coaching LLC |

Blog by Bells Breakthrough Leadership Coaching LLC

Do you have delegation barriers? It's Monday morning. Your heart sinks. You feel overwhelmed and frustrated with the number of items on your to-do list and calendar. This is not what you thought it would be like to be a leader. You wonder, "what went wrong?"

If this resonates in any way its time to "sharpen your saw". Sharpening the saw is one of the 7 habits described by Stephen Covey, in "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People". He is referring to self-renewal and self-care. If your to-do list is weighing you down it's time to stop and upgrade your operating system. This will need you, to be honest with yourself about why you have so much to do and why you aren't delegating more? Time

Your responsibility as a leader is to develop and empower your team to be the best they can be. This means there will be times when you need to ask someone to do something they haven't done before. This takes time. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to do things yourself. It might be quicker and easier at that moment to get it done. It's very tempting because it is usually true. But, you are creating a habit that will not support you in the long run.

Taking time out to train someone to take on new responsibility is an investment. In the long run, you will have a high functioning engaged team. It's up to you to decide. Do you want to keep doing things yourself because its easier in the moment and end up with an exhaustive to-do list?

By making time for delegation you will reap the rewards of a shorter to-do list and a high performing team.


You were promoted to a leadership position because of your ability to do the work. The work of a leader is different. It requires you to trust others to do the work. One mistake leaders often make is believing their way is only one way to do something, their way. This is rarely true. When delegating it's important to focus on what needs to be accomplished, not the how-to. This allows employee autonomy. They might even come up with new more efficient ways of doing things.

Another mistake that is often made is the lack of oversight. I hear leaders say they don't want to micromanage. This is a good thing. Yet, there is a difference between micromanaging and oversight. Micromanaging is when the leader keeps interfering and trying to control things. Oversight is checking in on progress. Making sure the employee is on track and has the support and resources they need to do a good job.

By trusting others and empowering them you will see things drop off your to-do list. You will feel more satisfied and accomplished and so will your team.


Fear can be a significant barrier to delegating. Here are some of the common fears:

  • Fear of not being needed.
  • Fear of loss of control.
  • Fear of being told no.
  • Fear of asking too much and people will quit.

It's important to understand where fear comes from. Sometimes it comes from past experiences that we don't want to repeat. Sometimes they come from our minds looking out for hazards and trying to keep us safe.

When you are aware that fear is blocking you, you need to do 2 things;

  1. Ask yourself how true is it. For example, how true is it that if you delegate you will no longer be needed? It's not true, what is happening is you are letting go of things that are not yours to do. This feels scary but it is you growing as a leader.
  2. Develop a strategy for overcoming the worst-case scenario. For example, if you are afraid that they will say no, how will you handle it. Knowing ahead of time what you will do in the situation will give you the confidence to proceed.

It's normal to have some fear or apprehension around delegating. The more you do it the more confident you will become. You may have heard the saying, "feel the fear and do it anyway".

Leadership is all about developing and delegating. If you are not doing this you will find yourself stressed and overwhelmed. Overcoming your fears, trusting others, and taking the time to delegate is the work of a leader. If you know someone who is caught in the delegation trap please share this article with them.