These are the 5 mistakes you make when you delegate

As you move up in your job, you need to go from being someone who gets things done to creating other people who get things done. Here are a few common mistakes people make when they start to delegate.

These are the 5 mistakes you make when you delegate
[Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash]

We all know the go-to person in the office who knows how to get stuff done, and maybe it’s you. This person is frequently promoted to leadership because they excel, but that presents a problem, says Scott Eblin, author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.


“Being a go-to person doesn’t help you build teams,” he says. “You need to go from being someone who gets things done to creating other people who get things done. It’s hard to let go. Getting things done is what you became known for and now you have to rebrand yourself. This causes fear and you have to overcome it to delegate effectively.”

Eblin says leaders often make five common mistakes when assigning work to others:

1. Not understanding the importance of the task

Before you can delegate a task, you have to be clear on it. Too often leaders give an employee something to do without having a deep understanding of the task and its impact.

“Why does it matter to you and why does it matter to the person you’re delegating to?” Eblin asks. “What does it mean to the company or the customer? You have to be super clear on the task and the stakeholders.”

2. Making an incomplete request

When you delegate, make sure you are providing enough information. Eblin suggests writing down the steps before meeting with your employee to prepare for your initial delegation session.

“Develop a plan for follow-through,” he says. “Too often leaders don’t do a lot of prep. They’ll say, ‘Take the lead on this and let me know when you’re done,’ and not much more than that.”


Instead, you should provide explicit instructions and insights. “Be crystal clear,” says Eblin. “Say, ‘Here’s the task. Here is the timeline. When it’s completed it will look like this. This is who needs to be involved, and this is who needs to be informed.'”

Also, tell the person how much you want to be in the loop, what resources are available, and what they can and cannot do without asking. You might also provide some potential pitfalls they could run up against.

3. Forgetting to set expectations on achievement

When you delegate a task, be sure to define what success looks like.

“How will the employee know when they reach 100%?” Eblin asks. “When will they be done? What does achievement look like? And who has to be happy with what’s achieved?”

4. Missing regular check-ins

Too often leaders fail at delegating because they think of it as a “set it and forget it” exercise, says Eblin.

“Even if you’ve been clear in delegating and have a lot of confidence and trust, most of the time it requires some level of checking in,” he says. “Get clear on how often you will check in as well as what factors might trigger a check-in, a red flag, or action.”


It’s a good idea to set a regular check-in timeline, such as weekly or biweekly, Eblin suggests.

5. Overlooking knowledge and kudos

Throughout the project, leaders should be mindful of the process. “There should be debrief lessons from the assignment,” says Eblin. “Are there things we learned while we were completing it? What can it tell us about the future on what we should do again, and what we would do differently based on what we’ve learned?”

And don’t forget to acknowledge the employee’s contribution. “Kudos is about recognition,” says Elbin. “Part of that is up front. It’s ‘Here’s what in it for you. This is what’s the upside for you if it goes well.’ And part is acknowledging what’s been accomplished at the end.”

Some people naturally have more project management skills, but delegating can be learned, says Eblin. “Go through these steps before you sit down with someone else and ask then to take the lead on a task,” he says. “Adopting a discipline around the prep and having a framework or checklist will get you off to a good start and help the other person bring it home.”