The One Question Every Leader Needs to Ask

By Diane Dempster, Executive Coach 

paperIt may not be what you think. It’s not something highly visionary or strategic, but rather simple and relatively tactical.  AND it can be one of the most powerful questions you can ask…transforming your work, your team, and your role as a leader. Are you ready?

Am I the right one to be doing this?

Yep. We’re talking about delegation. If you are a master, feel free to move on. At the same time, I suspect that if you are like most leaders we work with, you could use a bit of polishing.

So why is delegating so difficult for a leader?


We are good at what we do

Most of us got where we are as leaders because we were first really successful individual contributors. We did our work well, trusted our skills and instincts and “got it done.” Consequently, we were rewarded, either by our leaders and peers along the way, or internally, because it honored our own values of accomplishment and action. As we advance, and our role becomes more increasingly strategic, the count of practical accomplishments and tasks often decreases. The end point of our work is extended, and we are more focused on long-term goals, instead of the near-term check-marks that feed our sense of accomplishment.

It’s become a habit

In many situations, when we do things ourselves instead of delegating, it happens almost out of routine. We rationalize that it’s easier, or quicker, or perhaps even better for us to just get something done rather than taking the time to delegate, or even train someone else. This is a great place to check in with yourself and your assumptions. Is it really easier? Quicker? Better? Is it possible that there is something else going on that is making it hard for you to hand off? For many, fear and distrust hide under a thin guise of practicality. [clickToTweet tweet=”The One Question Every Leader Needs to Ask. #leadership via @leadfearlessly” quote=”Is it really easier, quicker, or better for you to do something yourself or is there another reason not to delegate? “]

So what do you do about it? Here are some keys to effective delegating:

  • Know your team: The more aware and confident you are in your team’s abilities and strengths; the easier it can be to hand off something that you otherwise would feel that you are better equipped to do yourself.
  • Know yourself: Spend time getting really clear on your own strengths, limitations, and tendencies, so that in your role as leader you are consciously assigning tasks to the “best” person for the work, rather than acting on a default. Understanding and leveraging strengths is at the core of self-knowledge.
  • Find an alternative: Make sure you fill your schedule with tasks where you are uniquely suited, and acknowledge your own value to the organization, particularly if it is more “behind the scenes.” If you find yourself missing the short-term accomplishments, identify and take time to celebrate near-term goals for yourself and your own work.
  • Be willing to let go: This requires trust, both in your team, as well as in yourself.  It also requires patience and discernment, both of which often take more time than we as quick moving leaders often allow.

And last, but not least, continually ask yourself the question, “Am I the right one to be doing this?” The more conscious you become about your work as a leader and the work of your team, the more aligned the work can become with strengths and the more productive and successful your company, and you, will ultimately become.