Updated: May 18
How would you rate your delegation skills? And how comfortable do you feel about delegating?
According to research by Columbia Business School, delegation is not a strong point for many women. Which is a real shame, because until we get comfortable with it, we miss out on a huge opportunity to gain back precious time and energy, and who doesn't want more of those?!
So, why is it that many women aren’t as effective at delegating as our male counterparts? (According to research women are more likely to rush interactions with subordinates when delegating and come across as less considerate than men). And why is it us women are more likely to feel anxious or guilty about delegating, so much so, we’d rather invest our own time and energy on the task?
Social conditioning is a massive factor – women have been taught that being too confident, controlling, powerful or aggressive is not what people want from us, and these are all adjectives that women associate with delegation. Research shows that not only does this prevent women from seizing the opportunity to delegate as often as we could, when we do delegate, the discomfort in doing so often results in instructions being less clear than those of male counterparts.
“We found that women delegated less than men when given the opportunity to do so. Further, women spent less time and showed less consideration toward their subordinate when they did delegate.”
So, how can we overcome this challenge to ensure women embrace the opportunity to gain back time and energy by becoming master delegators without guilt, anxiety or discomfort?
Viewing delegation as an opportunity for team members to learn and develop new skills, and treating it as a mentoring exercise is key. Check out this short video for a summary of the research Why Is It Harder for Women to Delegate? - YouTube.
If you're ready to take action, start by making lists of the tasks in your personal and professional life that could be opportunities for delegation. Now choose just one from each list and make a commitment to request support on these two tasks – remind yourself of the benefits to the person you’re delegating to. Ask yourself who else can gain value because someone else is undertaking the task instead of you, and because your time is being freed up. If the answer is you, give yourself permission to accept and enjoy that value. You might find it helpful to reflect on your experiences in a journal or by discussing with a peer who can also help by providing feedback and support. Return to your list and as you get comfortable delegating more tasks, you can add new ones to the list!