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How to Avoid Making the 8 Ultimate Delegation Mistakes
Dan Rose

June 16, 2017

Delegating is an important part of being a manager. But, it can be tricky if you aren’t able to let it go. Most employees can’t stand it when you hand them something to do and hover nearby to see how it’s going. But, in your mind, you’re doing the right thing. After all, what if the employee fails to do it right?  You’re pretty sure you could do it better and that would make you more comfortable. Careful … you’re committing one of the 8 ultimate delegation mistakes!

Delegating can be uncomfortable. And delegating well is tricky. Delegation mistakes lead to lost time, frustration and bad outcomes. Deciding what to delegate is often the first mistake.  Don’t delegate tasks that are boring, undefined, or confidential.  Asking someone to deliver praise or reprimands for you is a definite delegation mistake.  And, do NOT hand over the development of your team or strategic planning for the department—that’s your job.

Instead, choose things that are interesting and routine … things that someone else might be able to do better than you could.

Here are eight common delegation mistakes to avoid:

  1. Micromanaging: 

    If an employee is properly trained, delegate the outcome, not the process itself. If you’re giving someone a task to help train them, call it “training,” not delegating! Find your balance … give enough space for people to make some decisions and grow; monitor and support them to ensure the work is done effectively. Also, clarify who is responsible for getting the work done. Ownership is reduced if there is confusion about who is responsible, and this ownership is a key source of pride — one of the big benefits of delegating.

  2. Not staying involved to monitor progress:

    Check in as the work progresses.  This may seem contrary after reading #1 on micromanaging. But scheduling check-in points will enable you to discuss any concerns and hit deadlines. It also establishes accountability and lets your team know you expect action.

  3. Delegating too much at a time (procrastinating):

    Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed. Plan ahead. Don’t just start dumping things because your plate is full. Make choices that make sense. Make choices that give the person getting the task time enough to complete it effectively. If you’re procrastinating because you’re not sure if the other person can do the job, consider giving him or her more training so you’re comfortable with the hand-off.

  4. Delegating without clarifying the level of authority: 

    You need to decide how much authority it will take to complete the task and how comfortable you are with the other person making decisions. There is no wrong choice, but it’s important that the person getting the job understands your expectations. Will they have free reign or will you want to closely monitor the work? This decision might depend on how complicated the task is, and it could also change as the project progresses.

  5. Not allowing for mistakes and failure: 

    An environment where people make mistakes allows for learning and growing. If they are terrified about making a mistake because they know the hammer will come down on them, you’ve guaranteed they’ll make a mistake somewhere. To a certain degree, pressure and stress brings out the best in most people, unless it is overbearing. Create an environment where they can come to you without hesitation if something goes wrong.

  6. Not being clear about the outcome, vision, and timeline: 

    Don’t expect people to read your mind. Be clear about your expectations. Tell them exactly what needs to be accomplished and the deadlines involved. Share quality expectations. What are the goals and project measurements for success? Also, look for their reassurance that they can get the job done. If they seem hesitant, you may want to reconsider or have a longer talk with them about why they are nor sure they can do it.

  7. Delegating to the wrong person: 

    Your key goal should be delegating to the employee with the right background and talents to do the job. Take time to match the skills and experience of the person to whom you’re delegating, to the task that needs doing. Certainly, you want them to stretch themselves, but it needs to be within the reasonable boundaries of their abilities.

  8. Not taking time to review the delegated work when it comes back to you: 

    Yes, you trust your employee to do their best, most accurate, work, but that doesn’t mean they did. Check everything that comes back. Even if this employee has done 50 projects correctly, it doesn’t guarantee that #51 is perfect. Also, don’t accept partially finished work. This puts you in a position of redoing work. If you monitored the task correctly (#2 above) then this should rarely, if ever, be a problem.

Delegation is not dumping. It begins with your recognizing that you have too much to do. It takes careful planning and training for a successful hand-off. Avoiding delegation mistakes takes work and time. But, the payoffs are big for both you and your team.


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