Delegating is an important part of being a manager — but delegating well, can be tricky. You hand off a project but can’t help hovering nearby to see how it’s going. You’re concerned the employee might fail. You’re pretty sure you could do it better and that would make you more comfortable.
Delegating can be uncomfortable. And delegating well is tricky. Mistakes made in delegating 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. Don’t ask someone else to deliver praise or reprimands. And definitely don’t hand over the strategizing and development of your team — that’s your job. Choose things that are interesting and routine … things that someone else might be able to do better than you could.
Here are some other common delegating mistakes to watch out for.
- Micromanaging: If an employee is properly trained, delegate the outcome, not the process itself. (If you’re giving someone a task to help train the person, call it “training,” not delegating.) Find the 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 .
- Not staying involved to monitor progress: Check in as the work progresses. This may seem contrary after reading #1 on micromanaging. But scheduling some 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.
- Delegating too much at a time (procrastinating): Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed to delegate. 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 handoff.
- 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.
- Not allowing for mistakes and failure: An environment where people make mistakes allows for learning and growing.
- Not being clear about the outcome, vision, and timeline: Don’t expect people to read your mind. Be clear about your expectations and what needs to be accomplished when. Share quality expectations. How will the project be measured? Also look for reassurance that the job can be done by the person to whom you’re delegating.
- Delegating to the wrong person: Determining who has the right background and talents to get the job done should be a key consideration. Take time to match the skills and experience of the person to whom you’re delegating, to the task that needs doing. Certainly there can be some stretch involved, but it should be a reasonable extension of their existing abilities.
- Not taking time to review the delegated work when it comes back to you: Don’t accept partially finished work. This puts you in a position of redoing work.
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 handoff. Mistake-free delegating takes work and time. But the payoffs are big for both you and your team.