Avoid The 7 Deadly Sins Of Delegating

When done well, delegating tasks to your team members is a win-win situation: You gain time, and they gain experience. Unfortunately, common errors can kill any benefits you expect from making those assignments. Check your habits against this list of deadly sins:

  1. Requiring a crystal ball. You give vague directions and express total confidence in the person’s ability—until the employee turns in the work. Then you say that isn’t at all what you wanted, and you have the person redo the work.
    Unless your company name includes the words “Psychic Institute,” don’t expect your staff to be mind readers. Take time to discuss must-have results as well as what they should avoid doing.
  2. Relying on one person. When you need help, you think first of your right-hand man or woman. And that’s the only person to whom you delegate. As a result, that person burns out and the others feel ignored or undervalued.
    Plan how to use all your team members. Sometimes that will mean dividing a project among staffers or slowly developing their skills. Either way, the result will be a stronger team overall.
  3. Withholding resources. Employees can waste days starting from scratch and re-inventing the wheel. When you make an assignment, think about what aid and direction you can provide. Can you show them a sample? Introduce them to a key contact?
  4. Omitting limits. You’re the boss, and they want to please you. So if you don’t tell them otherwise, they will make your request their top priority and ensure that their results are flawless. The problem: Sometimes your request isn’t more important than the other tasks on their to-do lists or you don’t need extraordinary results.
    Clarify your expectations up front. Example: Instead of saying, “Tell me how much a new sign will cost for our trade-show booth” explain “I need a ballpark estimate on the cost of a sign for a new trade-show booth. Do you recall how much we spent on the last one?”
  5. Dumping the dirty work. Delegating should make the best use of everyone’s talents, not just free you from tasks. Are you asking a team member to talk with an irate customer because that person has excellent communication skills or because you don’t want to deal with the situation?
  6. Rushing frequently. Pitching in on an important last-minute job can energize a team. But when that’s the rule rather than the exception, it will burn your staffers out.
    If you often require them to drop everything for rush jobs, analyze why that is happening. Example: One of your high-volume customers regularly ignores deadlines. The solution might be to offer a discount for early orders—or to levy a penalty for missing deadlines. If that doesn’t provide the incentive to change your customer’s behavior, you can use the money to hire extra help.
  7. Failing to acknowledge the work. When employees feel like they send work into a black hole, they will stop devoting much energy to those assignments.

It takes only a minute to make a specific comment about the work. Example: “Your explanations on the forecast section of the report were clear and concise. Thank you!” Recognizing employees’ skills and efforts will boost morale.


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