My Photo


« MC Blog: Beyond Greed, Competition and Ego | Main | MC Blog: We Need Emails Like This! »

February 09, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Susan Martin

I agree that figuring out what those limiting beliefs are is key, but for those who are motivated by money, it may also be helpful to consider the impact on your pocketbook.

I once worked with a solo attorney who spent 45% of his time on tasks that could be delegated to someone who made less than 1/10th of what he billed hourly. By hiring one administrative assistant, he increased his revenues 12%, was able to go home earlier every night, and had more time to devote to developing his business.


This is a great and timely question: the Bay Area Consultants Network's program on Feb 25th is about increasing your profits & productivity with a virtual assistant (

As consultants, we may be in the position of being the person delegated *to* so often that we have trouble doing any delegating ourselves. But no one is paying the cobbler to make shoes for his own children, so perhaps he's better off buying them somewhere else.

A suggestion for Robert, if you want more answers: pose this "What stops you from delegating?" question in a slightly shorter format to LinkedIn's "Answers" section and see what people come back with.

Charlie Lang

I know exactly how challenging it is to delegate because for too long I was not doing it enough. My main limiting belief was that because I was so cash-strapped with not enough money coming in, I believed I simply can't afford to delegate.

What happens then is that you are stuck in a rut!

I had to break out of it, take a leap of faith that I will somehow be able to afford it and simply do it. It worked with a number of hick-ups.

Then, about 1.5 years ago, I came across the book "Built to Last" which was a deep inspiration to me as I realized that my main focus was on 'time telling' rather than on 'building a clock'. That changed everything and we are now growing at a much faster pace than ever before. It's challenging still to manage the cash-flow but it can be done. There are sufficient examples to prove the point and I'm certain we'll be one of them.

Barry Bassnett

There is an old Welsh saying 'Good enough, is good enough- They can't be perfect don't even try to make your delegatees mini u's. Just don't delegate without mentoring, or support.

Ask them to do one small job with a quick turn around before you give them a larger project.

If it breaks then fix it quick and tell them why its broken

Along a similar vain you may like to check out post 'no time to to a to do list

Greetings from the UK

Ross Slater

Delegation is very tricky, even for a reforming "control freak". Generally there are three big issues to delegating well:

1) we don't know what we want to give up (for more in this area see Unique Ability book, so we keep it all and feel overwhelmed.

2) we know what we want to give to others (usually what we hate doing), but don't know how to train others to do it as well as we can do it. (Learn your profile and then feel comfortable that others can do what we think only we can - and likely better!)

3) we've tried delegating in the past and it has failed - often for one of two reasons: a) we delegated the task, but not the brain power/experience of how to get it done right or b) we delegated it to the wrong person. So right strategy, but wrong implementation.

All of this holds us back from regrouping and getting clear on what to give up, figuring out how to communicate what we want (and the spend the appropriate time teaching others), then accepting that there are many ways to get the right result - let others use their own methodology as long as we concentrate on the end result.

Then of course, it's like anything successful in life - "repeat, repeat, repeat". To become more successful in life we have to learn how to know be "in charge" rather than "in control" (kudos to Dan Sullivan of for this concept). In charge is different, so we have to change. In control is limiting - it all depends on the type of future you want to have - big or limited. Delegation is "the way".

Good luck!

P.S. I'm still learning these lessons every day - self-talk is the path to sameness and change - funny, isn't it?


Though I a Group Manager, and I used to slogged through a long hours at office to review and rework of what my team delivered. I had always seen one of my peer, spending long hours at coffee bar, yet cheerful and lively (unlike me, who always looked stressed out!!!). When I asked him, how he manages his work, I was shocked to learn, he hardly worked 25% of my total work, yet delivered everything faster than me, purely because of delegation. I also got a piece of advice from him as "A true manager knows the art of delegation and hence, manage the work, while he/she doesn't really work". This statement made me think and re look at the way I worked. Delegation helped me to have a better team around me, which was happier for being virtually empowered and myself with less work and could spend more time in thinking strategy.

Robert Middleton

Thanks everyone for your feedback on this. Seems I have hit a nerve! Will keep you posted on my progress!


My basic expectation from delegation is to enable and empower my team with appropriate responsibilties.


Having grown my organization from a one-person shop to a 6-person and growing organization, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that failure to learn to delegate will absolutely limit your success. If you find yourself putting stamps on envelopes, responding to emails that will never result in a sale, or even selling, you won't ever turn your business into a valuable asset rather than just a job that pays decent money.

Many independent professionals hate selling and, therefore, aren't any good at it. So get someone to sell! You'll be spending more time on things that you love and close to 100% of your time on revenue-earning tasks.

Andrew Pritchard

I think that one of the biggest traps with delegation is the lack of proper systems and processes in most small businesses. Without a system in place for how a task gets completed, it is much harder to delegate that task. Without it, you're relying on the employee to just know how to do the job, or like @Martha above, you end up with the employee refusing to do it the way you need.

I'm a do-it-myself-aholic too! But I've just come face-to-face with my inability to get everything done for about the 100th time. I've finally admitted I need help and am getting it in the form of a bookkeeper! I tried to document my accounting system, but of course I could never quite get to it, so it's only half done. My bookkeeper and I are now working on developing that system together. And it's working... Not perfectly, but it's getting done which is a big step forward. I'm meeting with another potential employee at the end of this week. She's going to start doing some of the more time-consuming client work that I need to do.

In this economy, the business owner simply has to do the work that is of the highest value for the business. I need to be drumming up new business, meeting with clients, etc. I don't need to be entering expenses or doing menial work that someone else could do. The good thing about this economy is that there are tons of really skilled people looking for work, so finding good help is easier.

My motto for this year is delegate or die!

James Byrd

During the time I was a manager in Corporate America, I had to let go of "I can do it better" and trust that the people who worked for me could do the job for which they were hired. Now, as an independent professional, I expect a certain level of quality, but have learned to set the bar for "good enough" at a reasonable level.

The others I still have trouble with. In particular, "they'll screw it up" and "it will take more time to teach them" when we're talking about working with new people.

The main problem is that most independent professionals, by definition, don't hire employees, they hire contractors. The process of finding a VA or contractor you can work with is a time-consuming process in itself, and then because they are contractors, they move on to permanent jobs or otherwise disappear. As they say, "you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince," and then the prince walks off.

Our solution has been to hire a VA agency instead of individual VAs. If your VA flakes, the agency sets you up with a new one. If you don't like the VA you are working with, the agency gets you another one. It is a layer of insulation from many of the problems that come with hiring contractors.

Lori Osterberg

For me, a lot of it came down to timing. It would take time for me to train someone to do it, and I just didn't have the time. Thanks to technology, I found an answer. I now use Camtasia and record things I do that others can easily do. So my VA now does things like fill in my ezine and send. And if she has questions, she can watch the video again to get the answers. Plus it allows her to work on her time, when I may not be available to answer questions.

Martha Stanton-Smith

I know I have to delegate. I want to delegate. I even tried delegating. But it was a bad first start and most of the above came true. Plus, the person I delegated too tried quite determinedly to tell me how the job should be done and I spent hours explaining why I needed it the way I did.

So now I know firsthand that all the things you are thinking are going to be true, at least at one time or another. I guess I just have to say "so what." I know I have to delegate, so how do I get over the hump to the place where it's worth more than the downside hassles?

Susan Germein

I think that if we're honest, many of us don't delegate because the EGO won't let us. We might have to share the success with other people! Just a variation on the 'I'm the only one who can do it properly' excuse.

John Goodridge

I'm very familiar with all the above 'beliefs', yet I find many of them are a cover for something like:

"I must do this well because then they'll notice I can actually do it. Look at me. I can do it."

Who are 'they'? I don't know. Parents? Maybe. It all sounds a bit pop-psych.

Yet I do find a drive that people notice my competence. The problem is it's not directed at the specific things I'm really good at/passionate about. It's directed at EVERYTHING I do!!

Barbara Saunders

I learned the value of delegation when I worked as a waitress, strange as that might sound! I have always hated doing housework. When I worked at a restaurant where I was free to pick up extra shifts, I realized that I could pay someone less per hour to do my housework than I made waiting tables (which I liked.) More time doing what I liked to do, less time doing what I hated to do, a cleaner room, and extra money in my pocket. It was also pretty easy for me to find a person who did a better cleaning and organizing job on his/her worst day than I did on my best. So, my strategy for delegation is just to get someone good - and trust that what they do will be adequate, even if it isn't "perfect" (whatever that is.)

The comments to this entry are closed.