Published here Julyl 2021


Musings Index

Common Delegation Pitfalls
and How to Avoid Them
Max Wideman presents another contribution by author Angela Civitella

Here is good advice once again from Angela Civitella. Angela points to 8 top pitfalls when delegating work to your team. This advice has been around for a while in various forms, but is well worth repeating. Here it is.

Angela Civitella's advice

Delegating is the key to a successful project and is what sets bosses apart from true leaders. What is the hardest part? Knowing when to let go. Are you delegating tasks, especially remotely these days, and then find yourself nervous, hovering over your team making sure they do it right? Well, if they don't do it right, it might be as much your fault as it is theirs.

Here are 8 top delegation mistakes and how to avoid them.

1 - Failure to understand what to delegate and to whom
One of the top delegation mistakes is in not knowing what to delegate. Do not delegate tasks that are not in tune with what your team is capable of, or better yet, find out first what your team is capable of, and then delegate. Don't set people up for failure. Part of your job is knowing the strengths of each team member and assigning tasks at which they will excel.

2 - Micromanaging
If you train people well, you won't need to micromanage. And if you do micromanage, your employees will never learn. Give enough space for people to make some decisions and grow; be supportive to ensure the work is done effectively. But first it is important to properly identify who has what responsibility, so everyone can focus on their particular task at hand. This may be a little more tricky than usual with so many of us working virtually, but it is still very possible.

3 - Not staying involved to monitor progress
The last thing you want to avoid, is swaying to the other extreme and not managing at all. There is nothing wrong with checking in once and awhile; it's part of your job. Schedule check-in points to keep your team on alert that they need to perform with tangible and realistic deadlines. This reinforces accountability and expected results helping you stay more hands-off.

4 - Delegating too much at a time
Do not wait till the last minute to delegate! If you procrastinate your team will feel it and so will you. Do not delegate just because you are overwhelmed - this is when you will make the wrong decision on who should be doing what. Be sensible about your choices, and be fair about how much time you give someone to complete each task. Remember, it's not just about you, it's about your team first. If you're not sure about whom to delegate to, then invest more time in your team to better understand who the right person really is./p>

5 - Delegating without clarifying the level of authority
It's important that the person to whom you delegate a task, also understands your expectations. You need to convey how much authority they will have on the matter. Will they have free reign, or will you be monitoring decisions closely? This might depend on how complicated the task is, and it could also change as the project progresses.

6 - Not allowing for mistakes and failure
Mistakes are going to happen no matter how hard you try to avoid them. Very few mistakes are fatal, and/or irreversible. Very often, mistakes can be turned into opportunities and teachable moments. An environment that fosters people making mistakes, and allowing for growth and change, is the best of environments in which to grow. Pressure and stress, in the right measure, usually brings out the best in people. So, know how to push and pull, and more importantly, create an environment where they can come to you without hesitation if something goes wrong.

7 - Not being clear about the goal, vision, and timeline
I hope you don't expect your team to suddenly develop psychic abilities or guess your every expectation. Always be clear and as concise as possible. Share specific and well-defined expectations. What are the project goals? When do you realistically expect the project to be completed? How will success be measured? Request their buy-in. If they seem hesitant about taking on the task, or project, ask why they are not sure they can do it. Then, before delegating, you may want to reconsider, or have a longer talk with them, or divide the work up so that it can be handled in smaller chunks

8 - Not taking time to review the work
Trusting your employee is important, but that does not mean you don't need to review work and provide your approval. Without this important checkpoint your team has no way of knowing if they are on track. Always check everything that comes back to you. Don't accept partially finished work and don't redo anyone's work without his or her participation or approval. Provide the proper feedback so they can complete the task on their own and learn. If you monitored the task correctly (#2 above) then this should rarely, if ever, be a problem.[1]

The takeaway
Delegation is not about dumping tasks on others. It is a fine art and if done properly your team and your business will flourish. It starts with you, first recognizing that you have too much to do, and that your time is maybe better spent on more top-level tasks. Then it takes careful planning and training for a successful handoff. Avoiding these mistakes in delegation takes some work and time. But, the payoffs are exponential for everyone.

Angela Civitella is a certified business leadership coach and founder of Intinde (

1. Editor: I think that there is an exception here, in the case of written English reporting on the work involved. Avoidance of any possible misunderstanding is essential in project work. And remember, for many workers, English is not their first language. So correcting a team member's descriptive English is OK, but with the writer's knowledge of course.
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