Do you hold back trust from your team? Do you grudgingly share authority, information, and responsibility? Have you ever thought, “I have to do it myself if I want it done right?” Do you think you have to do it all, and then complain there are not enough hours in the day? You may need to consider improving your delegation skills. The more team members you trust to complete projects to your satisfaction, the more successful, committed, and satisfied your team will be. Oh, and when you successfully delegate the more time you have to complete projects.

“Have you ever wanted a clone of yourself? You know, so you can finish all the dull work tasks on your to do list, and get on with living your life? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do everything yourself and you can’t make another copy of yourself.” — The Art of Delegation: Developing This Essential Managerial Skill.

As a boss, there is a solution: you can delegate important tasks to your employees, freeing up time for you to work on more pressing matters.

Okay, so, you tried delegating. You even trained someone to take over some of your responsibilities and they were doing pretty good, until they quit. Yes, it happens, but you can’t let that stop you from delegating to others in the future. The lesson here should be to train more than one person, not that you should give up delegating.   

The First Thing You Must Do Is LET GO!

  • Start by training your staff to follow your criteria.
  • What organizational policies and procedures do they need to know?
  • What activities do they need to learn?
  • Teach them how!

“There’s more to delegating than just asking someone to do something. If you want to delegate effectively, you have to include mutual consultation and agreement between yourself and the members of your team. Solicit team members’ reactions and ideas, thereby bringing trust, support, and open communication to the process.” — 7 Tips to Help You Delegate More Effectively

But you did delegate and it turned out poorly. You couldn’t believe how they did it, or how long it took, or it wasn’t how you would’ve done it. But maybe instead of placing the blame on your direct reports you should focus on how you prepared your team for the responsibility.  

“Non-delegation can be a symptom of micro-managing. If you can’t let go, or if you take over delegated projects before they’re complete, you have a problem, and it’s adversely affecting your team.

How to stop – Let go and guide. For example, instead of taking over a project, give direction and offer advice, but let the project leader lead. Allow them to make their own decisions.” — Are You Sure You Don’t Micro-manage?

Next, Provide Your Team With Direction

  • What results are expected?
  • When are the results expected?
  • What activities will achieve the results?
  • What authority does the team have to engage these activities?

I get it. You tried to delegate. You delegated tasks that were achievable. Expectations were set. The team had the tools and authority they needed to accomplish the task, and yet they still failed and you had to end up fixing it. It would’ve been so much easier just to have done it yourself from the beginning.  

Don’t Give Up When They Mess Up

  • Are you perfect? Stop playing the blame game. When the outcome of a delegation is not what you’d hoped for, you should consider improving your delegation skills.
  • Delegate gradually, beginning with smaller short-term objectives.
  • Set a reporting schedule. Don’t wait until the project is completed to check it. Check the project throughout the project’s timeline.
  • Let team members make decisions. If they are at an impasse, offer pros, cons, and alternatives — but let them decide.
  • Enable failure by congratulating the team’s understanding of the failure. Give them confidence by allowing them to implement procedures to prevent the failure in future.
  • Delegate to team members tasks that you’re good at, so you may offer valuable advice.

So, you tried that delegating nonsense and it was a total washout. Did you ever stop to consider what you delegated and whether it was appropriate for delegation? 

Don’t Cause Failure By Delegating The Following:

  • Reprimands or demotions.
  • Projects with a high risk of failure.
  • Employee/Team Member Reviews.

Someone May Be Better Suited Than You

In “The art of delegation,” Gerard M. Blair uses an example of a janitor responsible for emptying the trash bins. If you tell the janitor to empty the bins on Tuesday and Friday, the bins will be emptied on Tuesday and Friday. If the bins overflow on Wednesday, they will be emptied on Friday. But if instead, you said, “empty the bins as needed,” the janitor would decide how often and adapt to special circumstances. You might suggest a regular schedule, but leave the decision up to him/her. By leaving the decision up to the janitor, you apply his/her local knowledge to the problem. Consider this — do you wish to be an expert on emptying trash bins, and can you devise instruction that covers all contingencies? If not, delegate this to someone who more direct information and practical knowledge.

“Leaders are human. They make mistakes, but by being aware of the most common pitfalls, problems can be reduced. I’d like to say I’ve compiled this list of my top ten leadership mistakes from observation, but it’s lessons I’ve learned from my own leadership missteps. You can either eventually figure it out through trial and error, or you could learn from my mistakes. Here’s my top ten:

Poor delegation. This includes not delegating (no one can do it as good as you), delegating without follow up, delegating impossible tasks, and delegating to those who are unprepared for the task.” — My Top Ten Leadership Mistakes.

“No manager can do it all alone, and the manager who tries severely limits the team’s ability to produce. And delegation is central to leadership development.” — What Are the Top Ten Management Responsibilities?

Are you efficient at delegation? If so, what has worked for you, and what challenges have you overcome?

Suggested Reading:
Learn PM Hut’s 12 Rules of Delegation

7 Steps to the Art of Setting Effective Expectations

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.