When delegation is done right, it is a glorious occurrence.  You can feel proud in supporting your teammate to be successful while also advancing the goals of your organization and spending time doing your most important work.  When it is done wrong, it can leave you embittered and reluctant from parting with important future tasks.  Let’s look at some ways delegation can go sideways.

1. Reverse delegation.  This is when people try to give you back part of the work.  They may come to you and say they cannot find the information and expect you to jump in and rescue the day.  Instead of completing the work for them, you can point them in the right direction.  They need to navigate their hiccups so they can develop problem-solving skills.  Ask the question – what do you think we should do in this situation, and watch their creativity come alive.

2. Over delegation.  Giving your team member a task that far outweighs their capacity would translate into more of a frustration than a learning opportunity.  To decide if the job is right for the person, you can ask these questions:

1. Did I provide the necessary resources?

2. Was I clear in outlining success?

3. Did I ask for feedback and consider input? 

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it may be a case of over delegation.

3. Too hands-off.  Some managers delegate a task and then walk away.  It is important to stay involved while letting the employee lead the way. Carol Walker, President of Prepared to Lead offers, “While you don’t want to tell people how to do the job, you must be in a position to evaluate their performance and development.”  Clearly, delegation is not the same as abdication so be sure to guide their success. 

4. Lack of clarity. You may feel that once you have shared your assignment to be done that the person heard it in the exact way that you intended.  Brene Brown, in her book Dare to Lead, suggests an effective method for reaching a meeting of the minds by using the simple phrase, “Paint done for me.” This prompts the person to be specific in their expectations and clear in their intentions.  She says, “it gives the people who are charged with the task tons of color and context and fosters curiosity, learning, collaboration, reality-checking, and ultimately success.”   I recommend using this language in the co-creation phase, which was outlined in the second blog of this delegation series. 

Quote of the day: “The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.”  – Eli Broad, entrepreneur

Q: What is one delegation challenge you faced in working with a teammate? How would you tackle that same challenge next time? Comment and share with us, we would love to hear from you!

Avoid Reverse Delegation