Master the Art of Delegation by Avoiding These 5 Mistakes

Delegating effectively is one of the most important things you can do as a manager, but it’s also one of the most difficult. Are you making any of these five common delegation mistakes?

1. Delegating without making sure that you and your employee are on the same page. Managers often forget to make sure they and their employees agree about what a successful outcome would look like and then are surprised when the final work product isn’t what they were expecting. To avoid this “implementation gap,” always talk explicitly at the start about what a successful outcome would look like.

2. Delegating without staying involved to monitor progress. It’s easy to assume that if you’ve talked through the project at the start, the work should happen according to plan. But in reality, you need to stay involved and check in as the work progresses. Those check-ins are what will allow you to keep the work on course, catch problems early, and change course if necessary. Online collaboration tools are one way to get the visibility you need into your team’s progress against milestones.

3. Delegating without truly delegating. Sometimes a manager is so nervous about, or invested in, a project that even though she has assigned it to someone else, she doesn’t really let go of it, not fully relinquishing ownership and sometimes doing some of the work herself. This leads to confusion about who is actually responsible for the work getting done and diminished ownership (and thus diminished performance) from the employee it was assigned to.

4. Feeling that if you can do it yourself, you should. This is a natural temptation, but it can result in underutilizing your staff and keeping your own plate too crammed, preventing you from spending time in the areas where you add the most value to your organization. After all, the whole point of managing is getting things done through other people!

5. Delegating to the wrong person. When delegating work, be sure to consider who actually has the talent and skills to get the job done rather than who should be able to do the task at hand because of background or position. (Of course, if you repeatedly find yourself reluctant to delegate responsibility to someone, you need to assess whether or not that person is a good fit for the role.)

At its core, delegating well is a microcosm of good management: It’s about figuring out what needs to be done, finding the right people to do it, clearly communicating what you’re looking for, following up to ensure you’re getting results, and creating accountability. And that, in a nutshell, is management!

 

Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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