Five Reasons Delegation Fails


Ron Edmondson offers five reasons why leaders fail when delegating tasks.

I encounter many leaders who claim to be good at delegation, but are frustrated with the results they receive on delegated projects. Of course, they often claim innocence, feeling they have done their job by delegation. The blame then naturally shifts to the delegate.

The problem, however, in many cases, rests not with the delegate, but with a leader’s failure to delegate properly. There are certainly times when the delegate drops the ball and doesn't follow through with the task (which is one of the reasons listed below), but in my experience, the failure of delegation most often rests with the leader:

Here are 5 reasons delegation often fails:

There was no accountability provided in the delegation process. When someone receives a project, they need to be given a timeline for completion. They need a system of follow up, measures of accomplishment or benchmarks towards completion. A predetermined win is clear and understood in healthy delegation.

The leader dumped instead of delegated. I have written about this previously, but if the leader had the responsibility to delegate the task, then he or she retains a level of responsibility to check in periodically with the delegate’s progress. There’s an element of partnership in a healthy delegation process, where the leader remains close enough to assure completion.

The delegate was not properly trained. Assuming someone knows how to do a task and can figure out their way on their own isn't only naive, it’s unfair. Questions need to be asked and information given on the front end to make sure the person has the ability to complete the task or the ability to learn along the way. This may involve the leader spending more time in the beginning phases of a task to ensure completion is attainable by the delegate.

Adequate resources were not in place. It’s difficult to expect someone to complete a task when the leader hasn't given the proper tools for the job. Sometimes anxious leaders delegate a project too soon, before the team is ready, either in structure or in resources.

The wrong person was chosen for the task. Let’s face it. Not everyone is up to every task. Many times when delegation fails because the leader picked the wrong person for the job. Selecting the best person on the front end or reassigning when an improper fit is discovered is critical to assure completion of a task.

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