Don't make these common delegation mistakes

November 30, 2018

By Stephanie Vozza at Fast Company on November 29, 2018

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:


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.”


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.


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?”

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