So you’re pretty sure you’ve  mastered the art of delegation (because you read this post.)

You’re all ready to kick back and dig into those wonderful, exciting projects that require your secret sauce.

Those edits to your presentation? Never made.

Budget revisions? Two weeks overdue.

Revised Marketing Plan? Riddled with typos.

Infuriating! Heart breaking! So.damn.annoying.

When delegated work doesn’t work out, we nearly always blame our delegate. Are they incompetent? Lazy? These thoughts are understandable but they’re not effective. Blame only brings defensiveness and frustration – for both of you.

Make a conscious decision to replace your JUDGEMENT with CURIOSITY. Choose to be curious about what happened.

Did you actually make a clear agreement? Did the delegate have other priorities that got in the way of completing the task? Were these just plain ol’ mistakes?


Did you make a clear agreement?

Ask your delegate what they understood the assignment to be; ask them before you restate your request. Look for gaps in understanding.

When we’re delegating, we think we’re spelling out the task in black and white, but studies show we only communicate 50-80% of what’s in our mind. The other 20-50% goes unspoken!

Our brain tells us we gave a full description, but we rarely say everything we’re thinking. This is why you’ll save yourself (and your staff) a lot of work if you ask them to restate an assignment before they dig in.

Before you delegate your next project, find one thing you could have done to better communicate the assignment. This will probably help. Ask your delegate to identify one question they could have asked to better understand the project. Ask them to incorporate this into future conversations.


Were there prioritization challenges?

You had a clear agreement, but other work “got in the way.” It’s important to identify these issues early in the process, not wait until the a project is due to discover work hasn’t been completed.

Let your delegate know the impact of not having the assignment done on time and ask when they first had a sense the work might not be completed. Could they have come to you earlier to help you prioritize?

In most cases, your delegate didn’t realize how much time the project required and didn’t speak up for fear of appearing incompetent. Nip this in the bud by insisting they come to you earlier if projects are running late. In the future, when they let you know ahead of time, reward this behavior by helping them prioritize what matters most.


Were these just mistakes?

We all make mistakes. But at some point in your working relationship, you’ll have to consider the frequency of these mistakes and if they’re affecting business. If they don’t happen often and they’re not affecting your bottom line LET IT GO. You make mistakes too!

If they’re making mistakes too often, discuss how your delegate can improve their performance or consider if they’re in the right job.

How often do your delegations go awry? How are you making that less likely?

P.S. Know someone who’s always disappointed when they delegate work? Send them a link to this post!