Don’t Make These 9 Common Mistakes When Delegating

Delegating is not dumping. It begins with your recognizing that you have too much to do.

Your parents might have drummed into your head, “The best way to get something done right is to do it yourself!” Solid advice, but if you’re too enamored with your own way of doing things, you’ll never learn to delegate well.

Delegation becomes necessary when you rise further up your career ladder and become too busy to juggle all your tasks.

It can be tricky if you aren’t able to let tasks go. Before you start delegating you must be ready to let go of those jobs that you are handing over. As most employees (I was one) can’t stand it when you hand them something to do and hover nearby to see how it’s going.

You as the employer are pretty sure you could do it better and that would make you more comfortable. Careful … that’s a common delegating mistake!

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.

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

Here are nine 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, please 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.

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. Assuming Everyone is on the Same Page

This may be the most common of all delegating mistakes.

You may think everyone has agreed on who’s going to do what, when in fact the designated person hasn’t, or didn’t understand your instructions. You can avoid poor clarity with a few simple questions.

Fortunately, you can easily catch this type of oversight during a standard “trust but verify” check-in. In this case, even if the task gets a late start, at least it’s moving. Which brings us to the second and worst mistake.

3. Not Having a Regular “Trust but Verify” Check-In

Delegated tasks aren’t fire-and-forget; they require an occasional check-in to ensure someone’s doing them. Check in as the work progresses.  While it’s best to trust your people, you can’t just assume a particular individual understood that you handed off the task to them instead of the person next to them

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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Not Reviewing 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 25 projects correctly, it doesn’t guarantee that the next project is perfect.

Also, don’t accept partially finished work. This puts you in a position of redoing work. If you monitored the task correctly (No.3 above) then this should rarely, if ever, be a problem.

7. Not Leaving Room 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.

8. 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.

9. Delegating Too Much at a Time (Equals 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.

When you need to delegate do it wisely, by keeping these common mistakes in mind. Avoiding delegation mistakes takes work and time. Though the payoffs are big!

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Nicky Cane