8 Common Delegation Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

By Angela Civitella

Delegating is the key to a successful business, and it sets bosses apart from true leaders. The hardest part? Knowing when to let go. Are you delegating tasks, then finding 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 eight of the top delegation mistakes leaders make and how to avoid them:

Failure to understand what to delegate to whom:

One of the top delegation mistakes is 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.


If you train people well, you won’t need to micromanage. And if you 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 the task at hand.

Not staying involved to monitor progress

Last thing you want is it 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 remind 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.

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 as to who should be doing what. Be sensible about your choices, and be fair about how much time you give someone to execute a task. Remember, it’s not just about you; first, it’s about your team. If you’re not sure about whom to delegate to, invest more time in your team to better understand whom the right person is.

Delegating without clarifying the level of authority: 

It’s important that the person to whom you delegate the task to understands your expectations. You need to clearly communicate 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.

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. Mistakes most often can be turned into opportunities and teachable moments. An environment that fosters people making mistakes and allowing for growth and change, is the best environment 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.

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. 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 complete? How will success be measured? Request their buy-in. If they seem hesitant about taking on the task or project, you may want to reconsider or have a longer talk with them about why they are not sure they can do it before delegating.

Not taking time to review the work 

Trusting your employee is important, but that does not mean you don’t need to review their work and provide your approval. Without this important check-point, 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 – don’t redo anyone’s work. Provide the proper feedback so they can complete the task on their own and learn. If you monitored the task correctly (No. 2 above) then this should rarely, if ever, be a problem.

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 or more top-level tasks. Second take the time to carefully plan and train for a successful hand-off. Avoiding these delegation mistakes takes some work and time, but the payoffs are exponential for everyone.

Angela Civitella is a business leadership coach and founder of the firm INTINDE

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