By Nick Gendler, Executive Career Coach

A recent session with an executive coaching client brought up an interesting insight I thought I’d share.

Our conversation revolved around how my client delegates work to his team. Why was it an issue? My client considers himself to be a good delegator, a leader who is keen to develop his team by passing work their way. So why did he feel busier than ever?

We talked about what he meant by delegation and the tasks he delegated. It was my client who came up with an elegant way of describing what he was doing and what he should be doing.

What he identified was that he was busy delegating solutions, but not delegating problems. The result: he spent his time thinking about the problems and then passed on the tasks to solve those problems.

In so doing my client thought he was empowering his team when in fact he was having the opposite effect. Delegating solutions takes away all the creative side of problem solving, leaving only the actions to execute. Team members who are given only tasks to do will improve their execution of those tasks, but they get very little experience dealing with workplace challenges. True delegation requires a transfer of decision making authority.

It’s easy to assume that the failure to delegate is doing everything yourself but that’s not a fine enough distinction. The failure to delegate is as much about what you delegate as whether you delegate, and what you delegate is not about how many tasks you pass on to team members, but the extent to which you trust the team to come up with effective solutions to your problems.

If you struggle with effective delegation, as opposed to distributing simple tasks around, there’s something you need to work on.

Nick Gendler, of Workjoy, is our recommended Career Coach.