Is Trust Required for Delegation?

Many believe that it is the newest supervisors (managers, directors, leaders, et al) who fail to effectively delegate. Yes, there is often a learning curve or adjustment period required when you enter a new leadership role, but even the most seasoned professionals sometimes miss the mark on effective delegation.

The absence of effective delegation is often related fear. Fear is the driver of poor performance in many leadership competencies and delegation is not an exception. Leaders reluctant to delegate often struggle with the fear of failure, the fear of success, or even the fear that they may lose control. Poor delegation efforts also develop when the leader hand picks the jobs that are fun, easy, or they otherwise enjoy doing. A lack of trust is often the factor most associated with fear in delegation efforts.

Is trust required? Well, it certainly helps most situations. Here are three key points that relate to delegation and trust:

1. Expectation conversations are easier. Let’s face it, if you don’t trust that a team member can do the work, do it correctly, and do it on time, your conversation prior to handing over any assignment is going to be longer, more drawn out, and require a lot more effort. Sometimes so much effort that a person who should be delegating work simply decides to do it themselves citing that it is just easier that way.

2. Delegation takes less time when there is trust. Think of a conversation you might have with a co-worker who you don’t trust very much. Take a moment to visualize that conversation, really go through it step-by-step. Now, think about that same conversation with a person who you completely trust. What is the difference? Delegation with a person you trust is not only easier but it will take much less time. You don’t have the same feeling of needing to discuss the finest details, of double checking for clarity and expectations, and you feel more confident eliminating some of the stress that often hinders good delegation efforts.

3. Trusted resources are supervised differently. Of course, this is true. A person who you completely trust to complete assignments, to complete them properly, on-time, while also meeting or exceeding expectations is going to be a different supervisory experience when compared to someone that you believe cannot achieve that same level of performance.

Are you effective at delegation? What would your direct reports say? Have you asked them? Have you recently (or ever) been accused of micromanaging?

Perhaps the step that comes before delegation should be building more trust.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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