6 ways leaders sabotage delegation and how to fix it

Even though leaders know that delegation is key to business growth, they often avoid it and try to take on the work themselves. It’s not that they want to be workaholics that are in the office from sun up to sun down; instead, their hesitance to delegate stems from past mistakes. And those delegation mistakes have kept them from trying again. That’s why we are going to talk about delegation mistakes and how to fix them.

Delegating to the wrong person

One of the biggest ways leaders sabotage delegation is by picking the wrong person to delegate to. When a leader starts determining what they need to delegate, they sometimes just assume their assistant is right for the job. While assistants are extremely talented and come with a variety of different skills, projects aren’t always a one-size-fits-all.

In order to avoid project delays, make sure you are assigning the project to the right person on your team. But how do you do that? Start by looking at the requirements of the project and then talk to your assistant. During that conversation, find out if it is something they feel comfortable taking on or if they have a team member they think will be better suited. Once the right person is on the project, you can rest easy knowing it will get completed efficiently.

Setting unclear expectations

It would be great if your assistant was hired with mind-reading abilities, but unfortunately, those assistants are few and far between. That’s why it’s extremely important to be clear and concise with your assistant. Here are a few questions your assistant should know about every project you delegate to them:

  • What are the project goals?
  • What is the deadline for the project?
  • What does success look like for this project?
  • Are there any specific people your assistant should talk to about this project?

Instructions are too vague

When it comes to doing or learning something new, there is something to be said for over-communicating. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to start fresh on the project if you’ve been handling it yourself. This can lead to giving your assistant very vague instructions on how to complete the project.

With vagueness, there is a lot of room for error. To avoid a project pitfall, it’s time to overshare. Have your assistant grab a notebook and share everything, even the things you don’t think will make much impact. Once you’ve shared all of the details, allow time for your assistant to ask questions. When this training session is over, don’t expect your assistant to know it all. Make time to answer any questions your assistant may have as they work through the project to ensure success.

Checking out on the project

When it comes to delegation, you might be thinking out of sight, out of mind. And while you don’t need to have your iron in every fire, completely checking out until the project is done may not be ideal if the tasks are new to your assistant.

Instead of just handing the project over and waiting until deadline day, take time to check in weekly with your assistant. Schedule a meeting once a week for your assistant to do project status updates and share any concerns they may have. This is also a good time for your assistant to ask any questions that have come up since your informational meeting.

Turning into a micromanager

Even though there are plenty of executives that check out during a project, there are some that do the exact opposite. These leaders cannot give up control and constantly need updates or jump in to do “one quick thing” when they feel like the project isn’t getting completed fast enough. This type of micromanagement style can actually delay progress and potentially cause missed deadlines or confusion for your assistant.

If you’re a leader that has trouble giving up control of a project to your assistant, it’s time to work on communication instead. When you delegate the project to your assistant, set the expectation of when you need status updates. It doesn’t matter if you need updates daily or weekly. When you know that you will be getting an update, your mind will feel at ease, and you’ll be able to give up control easier. It will be challenging at first, so if you pick up the phone to call in the middle of the afternoon, remind yourself that your assistant will update you.

Failing to review and provide feedback

Everyone grows through constructive feedback, so now is the time to start talking. When the project you delegated is complete, take some time to review it. While reviewing it, you may be tempted to make any small corrections you see, but that doesn’t help your assistant grow. So make little notes and discuss them with your assistant. Have them make the corrections and review it again.

It is also a good time to give your assistant any feedback on the way they handled the project. If your assistant completed the project beautifully, let them know. If they missed some key steps, share that information too. If leaders avoid giving constructive feedback, they will eventually feel frustrated when things aren’t getting completed the way they like them to be done. This could lead to tension with your assistant or completely foregoing delegation altogether. With feedback, these scenarios can be avoided.

As leaders start to delegate more and more, there will be mistakes that pop up. We’re all human and, unfortunately, haven’t figured out how to achieve perfection at all times. Keep this in mind when something happens that may deter you from delegating again.