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3 Common Mistakes Leaders Make While Delegating

delegation deliberateleadership leadingvirtually Jul 07, 2020

Let's explore the challenges of delegating.  Here's a management skill made even more difficult by the need to lead your team virtually.

If you can focus on overcoming these three common mistakes, your delegation skills and effectiveness will improve dramatically:  lack of clarity, not letting go and lack of a follow up plan.

Lack of Clarity.  

There are so many areas where the need for clarity comes into play. First and foremost, you need to understand your intention in delegating the task.  Is it just to get something off your to-do list or is it a training and development opportunity for the other person?  Why not both?

You also need to be crystal clear about your own expectations, the outcome you want, and what you don't want.  How much latitude the person will be given to achieve the result, what’s the time frame for completion, and what resources are available for support?

A valuable lesson I learned is to ask "what questions do you have?" instead of "do you have any questions?" because people almost always answer no, because they don't want to feel stupid.  Or you can ask someone to explain what they heard, in case you left anything out.  That put the onus on you for not being clear.  These simple adjustments made a huge difference in encouraging people to admit they didn't understand and to ask questions. 

Another area for clarity is defining the measure of success.  How will we know - and agree – that the task is completed to satisfaction?  And what, if any, is the reward – and alternatively, what, if any, is the consequence if it is not done? 

Not letting go.

You really need to examine your own mindset about giving up control. For many business owners and executives, this is way more difficult than they are willing to admit.  Few people like to be called a control freak or a micro-manager. Yet, if we were to ask the people who report to you, what would they say?  Yeah, thought so.

The reality is that if you really and truly believe that no one can do the job as well as you, you are destined to do it yourself.  Effective delegation requires you to check your ego at the door and open your mind to the possibility that others are capable and may even do a better job at the task than you would. 

On the other side, it can be really frustrating when you are trying to complete a task and someone is constantly looking over your shoulder and checking in.  If you’ve done a good job of providing clarity about the tasks and the boundaries within which it needs to be completed, this will be easier. 

Letting go does not mean abdicating completely. It’s not fair to someone who is new to a task to just hand it off with no direction—and no clarity.  But you also need to trust people to rise to the occasion.  If they make mistakes, it’s part of the process; after all, you weren’t always an expert either. 

Lack of a plan for follow up. 

Effective delegation requires an agreement between the two parties involved. What’s the plan?  What are the action steps to completion and who is accountable for them?

Depending on the experience of the person taking on the task, they may create the plan for your agreement.  Or, maybe it’s a joint effort.  Either way, clearly identifying responsibilities ahead of time will avoid the need to assign blame after the fact.

The plan should reflect the timeline for completion and any progress reports along the way.  The follow up schedule will depend on the degree of complexity, your level comfort and the amount of experience required for successful completion.

Just adding a little more attention and structure to your delegating by focusing on improving these three areas can make a big difference. 

If you found this helpful, I invite you to download a Cheat Sheet I created:  7 Steps to Getting Your People to Execute – when you want and how you want.






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