Seven deadly sins of delegation


We’ve recently talked about efficient ways to delegate and it’s become quite clear that delegation is an essential leadership skill, which few leaders actually practice. However, it is something we all can and should learn. Why? Because delegation done well helps an organization grow, strengthens the team and it actually makes the difference between an over-scheduled agenda and a balanced, focused business environment.

It’s true — delegation can improve our professional results. But it’s not always easy to figure out the perfect ways to delegate. Besides the well-known do it my way syndrom and they are not ready routine, there are other enemies too. So, while striving to master the skills of delegation, we should be on the watch for these seven deadly sins, of which at one point or another, we are always guilty:

1. Not delegating at all or choosing the wrong person for it

Try as we may, it’s hard to say which is worse :) One thing is for sure — as a manager you should develop the ability to select the appropriate person for each task. Analyze their capabilities and go with the employee who is more prepared for the job, not with the one who has more free time, for instance.

As time consuming as you believe it to be, delegation is a long-term investment. Even though the perfect person for the job may fail to appear, you should have the patience and openness to teach people what to do and expect them to make mistakes along the way. As your delegates start to improve their ways, they will be able to handle more challenging projects, freeing you up for displaying vision and developing strategic priorities.

So don’t fall for the first deadly sin — choose to delegate and choose the right guy/girl for the task!

2. Assumptions and delegating in an unclear manner

The second deadly sin of delegation is doing so in a vague manner. One wrong way to do it is by guessing the person you are delegating to has the same level of understanding as you and once you’ve explained what they need to do, it’s all fine. Well, guess again — assumptions are very bad for your business. Instead, ask questions and try to make sure that the delegate fully understands the task.

The second wrong way to do it is by giving too few or unclear details. Beyond telling someone what to do, it is essential to explain why and how. When delegating, leaders should clearly explain the expected outcome as well as relevant background and the timing and method of follow-up. Clarity is the key in a successful delegation.

3. Duplicating delegation assignments

Now this one is important, particularly in the case of projects split between employees. This is also a matter of clarity, as any assignment should be discussed as a team, before anything gets started. When delegating parts of a major project or complex process to multiple individuals, leaders should hold a meeting to coordinate how the different assignments fit together. Also, from time to time, whenever you consider necessary (not too often, though), a brief meeting will help you review the details and see the big picture. And it will also give your team members a place to be together and discuss potentially overlapping areas.

4. Delegating but not supervising

Rookie mistake, some would think… But very often encountered. A common reason would be the rush to do everything and more. Maybe you feel secure that the person to whom you’ve handed the job will manage on their own. And maybe they will. But still, you need to take the time to at least ask them if they need your guidance and support. Successful delegation involves mentoring and teaching, so watch out for the fourth sin of delegating — don’t abdicate your responsibilities once you forward them to another person.

5. Micromanaging when delegating

On the other hand, too much supervision can quickly turn into invasive micromanaging. Introducing the fifth deadly sin on delegation. While it is great to offer support and be available for any questions that may arise, as a leader you should know the difference between offering much needed help and annoying people with too much checking up. It also demoralizes your delegates, as well, as it sends the message that you don’t trust your team. So as difficult as it may be, allow them to prove themselves, as in the long run, this attitude will boost their productivity and willingness to take up new challenges.

6. Taking delegated work back

Because sometimes you don’t have any other opportunity to screw things up…:) It is also called the ’do it my way’ syndrom — the sixth deadly sin of delegation — taking back assignments before completion. Maybe the person you have put in charge gets stuck or makes a mistake along the way. Now you are there to lead the way, not to watch their every move and eagerly expect them to make a mistake so that you can prove them they cannot handle the situation. Because this is exactly the kind of statement you are making when you take work back from someone who has difficulty managing it.

Instead, you could try asking questions about the issue and helping them explore their options and get out of problematic situation. Even if it takes a bit more at first, it is advisable to let delegates work out their own stuff rather than discouraging them in a way that may or may not be challenging for them.

7. Dumping tasks on others

And here is the last, but not smallest of the seven — acting as if you are dumping work on others rather than assigning work for the benefit of the company. Delegation should always be appropriately done according to the skills and capabilities of your employees, to the level of complexity of the task and the strategy you are following for your business. So show appreciation, be generous and genuinely warm and positive towards your team. This will help them feel respected.


Make no concession, there’s a war out there. A war for success and recognition on a market that gets ever more crowded and challenging. At TRISOFT, we believe that among so many other skills and strategic moves that you have to pull in order to win the battle, delegation is one to keep in mind. Why? Because no organization can grow or survive without a strong leader who knows how to get the most from their troops. Learn your lessons today and avoid these seven deadly sins!