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Sometimes being in HR is a grind. I feel that way today. I simply have too much to do. I have more projects than I have hands.

There is an old adage that in circumstances like this, that I can “cry all the way to the bank”, but the reality is that it is a problem, a systemic one. I don’t delegate.

According to a study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity, 46% of companies have a “somewhat high” or “high” level of concern about their workers’ delegation skills.

Work delegation of senior people is often a problem in small firms, which is where I work. At this point in my career, if I could meet with people I like, scope out work, and hand it over to a team of greatly qualified keener individuals, life would be bliss. The likelihood of this happening though is about as high as me winning the lottery.

That said, I’m not infallible and things have to change for me.

But having a mindset of delegating; to free up time to think of bigger picture items, that doesn’t come easy to me. Some of the work I do is highly confidential and I need to control what others might see. Yet, I know it is the right thing to do, but nearly 25 years into my career, I have up till now refused to engage an admin assistant, and still book my own flights and schedule my own meetings. I make my own spreadsheets. I prepare my own correspondence and docket my own time. I am woman, therefore I can type and format, has been my philosophy.

Are you like me? Do you want to change? If yes, then keep reading.

1. Understand why you’re not delegating.

One of the challenges of working in a small firm is the feast and famine cycle of business. Most employees expect regularity in their hours and pay and sometimes work and availability do not match up. I have avoided the risk of having to let someone go, simply by not hiring in the first place. Sometimes doing the right thing means taking a leap of faith.

2. Start small and work up.

You don’t have to go from owning everything to nothing. A colleague whose opinions I value recently told me she was utilizing 3rd party on demand services for everything from scheduling flights to finalizing Christmas cards. I’m sure there are dozens of small things I could move off my plate that would make way for delegating the meatier HR tasks.

3. Learn from someone who is good at delegating.

I actually consult to a lot of professional services firms, and advocate the model of the 50-70-85 focus. This simply means that once you are at a Director level or above, you should be spending 50% of your time or less on actually chargeable activities, with 30-40% of your time focused on activities that will improve the capabilities of your team. I have clients who heed this model and have achieved not only work/life balance but higher margin in their business unit.

4. Trust that people will not do things as well as you, and that’s OK.

I’m not a perfectionist, but I like things done a certain way. I need to learn to accept that other ways are good, sometimes better. I have a tendency to have a constant eye on the clock so if things are not being done within the timeframe I think they need to be done in, I take the tasks back. There are obviously better strategies than that.

5. Ask others to observe and provide feedback.

Perhaps this is the purpose of this blog. Do you know me? If yes, watch me and tell me if you think I’m progressing.

People like me can make themselves miserable living to the grind of doing it all. If you’re like me and you want to make a change, take my advice: Stop.


  1. Hi Bonni,

    That’s a great blog and very relevant topic.
    I also experienced the same a few months back. From a team of 4 HR professionals in the department, at my organization, for a variety of reasons, we were down to one, only me. Although, the situation was temporary for couple of months, we hired a temp admin assistant to help out. For a week, I had great difficulty in delegating the work we do. However, I was quick to realise how unsustainable it would be if I carried on like that.

    For me, like you suggest in your blog, I started with prioritizing based on important versus urgent matrix. Using this model, I could divide the task into 4 categories: urgent and important, urgent but not important, not urgent but important, lastly, not urgent and not important.

    Using this matrix made it easy for me to decide what tasks I could delegate.

    Have you heard of this matrix or used it before?


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