Why Leaders Don’t Have Time NOT To Delegate


The productivity question that every leader must face at one point is, “Do I complete this task myself or delegate it to someone else”?  Depending on the situation, completing the task yourself can be a lot quicker.  It takes a while to properly train someone to be effective in a new role.  What you need to measure however, is not the time saved today, but the time saved tomorrow.


I was having a discussion with a Retail District manager who oversaw 15 locations.  We were touring together to identify opportunities in her district.  She expressed her discontent at the visual execution in her stores.  She felt that her Store Managers were having difficulty maintaining high visual standards and needed to be better merchants.   When we arrived at one of her stores, she started moving fixtures around to better emphasize what was selling.  The District Manager spent about an hour and a half making visual changes.  At the end, she explained to her manager the why of the changes she made.


When we broke for lunch, I challenged her as to why she made all the changes herself.  She replied that when she walked in, she noticed several areas that needed attention.  She explained, “Proper visual execution is so important to the sales in the store.  When the brand message is clear and the shopping experience for the customer is smooth, sales go up.”


I agreed with her but my challenge remained.  I again asked why she didn’t involve her manager in any of the decisions.  Or even better, why she didn’t show her manager strategies in becoming a better merchant.  “Oh no, I tried that before but it takes too long.  It takes longer to explain than to do it myself”.   Still convinced she didn’t understand my message I asked her how often she has to perform this exercise in her stores.  “Every time”, she answered.  I then probed further with, “Do you ever have to repeat the same exercise in the same store?”


I think you can probably imagine her answer.  Of course, she has to repeat the same exercise because she never took the time to teach.  She may have thought she was saving time.  What she was actually doing was trading shorter time today for longer time tomorrow.  What do I mean by that?


“When leaders choose to do tasks themselves without delegating or developing others first, they are trading immediate time gain for greater returns long-term.”


With productivity, your goal is to invest today in actions that will significantly multiply your time tomorrow.  When you are investing in the future, you are not so worried about your returns today.  Learning when and what to delegate is the key to effective delegation.


  • Delegate the tasks that are least important so that you can spend more time on what is most important. It does not imply that you delegate non important tasks.  These tasks you should try to eliminate if they do not lead you to your goals.
  • Delegate to those who have the potential to do the job effectively even if there is a learning curve. The more you delegate to the right people, the quicker they will learn and the greater the returns.


Trusting someone to complete a task is a sign of trust and can be a huge motivator.  In the end, a leader’s job is about teaching others to perform at a higher level.  How can you expect to accomplish that without developing your team through delegation?  So next time you are given an opportunity to delegate but hesitate to do so, focus on the long-term gain versus the short-term benefits.  Invest in your people and they in turn will invest in you.

How comfortable are you when it comes to delegating?