Why your manager finds it hard to delegate

agile, blog, management30

We have a local appliance shop in my village. When you need a new kitchen appliance, laundry machine, etc., you go there. In the past, they almost always used the same selling technique. “We use this appliance also ourselves.” It made you wonder how many appliances or laundry machines they used.

Drink your own champagne. Practice what you preach. Eat your own dog food. Probably more sayings say the same thing. If you advise people to do something, make sure you also do it yourself when appropriate.

But OMG, how hard is that… I often talk about empowering teams, setting up delegation boards, or team decision matrix boards. I really believe that a team has more knowledge and experience as one individual. However, sometimes there are situations where you really don’t feel like empowering the team.

I attended a few meetings last month where teams came up with a proposal to solve an issue. A solution that could work, but I was not sure if it would really address the root cause of the problem. It was more a gut feeling, no fact, no data, just my opinion.

I really like the quote of Jim Barksdale: “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

However, this really sounds like a Management 1.0, command and control approach to me. I could have told the teams; there is no data to support your or my solution; let’s go for my solution.

Maybe I am more experienced than someone who just started his career. Perhaps I have more learning experience as a professional in his mid-career. But does that imply I know things better? I would love to say yes, but I should be honest to myself and say: nope. Even I can be wrong sometimes 😉

To empower teams, delegating decisions to teams is sometimes just difficult.

At least I find it sometimes difficult. Maybe I am the only one, and all other managers, leaders, and senior people find it easy? Sometimes you just want to tell teams just do it like I tell you. Why? Just because I tell you.

In many transitions to become agile, to change the way of working, management and leaders are sometimes really struggling with the new way of working. Not because they don’t understand the advantages or don’t want to change. But just because they are also people and it is sometimes hard for people to change!

So what to do?

Next time you are in a situation where delegation and empowerment don’t work as expected, just take a time out. Step back, and discuss with all people involved what you see happening. Accept that all people involved have good intentions, but sometimes it is just difficult to drink your own champagne. Even managers and leaders are just like real people.


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