How to be Rubbish at Delegating

Delegating is a key skill for a manager, but it’s surprisingly easy to be pants at it. It looks so easy doesn’t it? You just tell your team what they need to do and then relax with your feet up, smoking a cigar.

If only it was that easy… So have a read of the following pointers, which you need to avoid unless you want to be rubbish at delegating.

Note – I’ve got another article on the learning cycle and how to
use it as a manager, well worth a read too.

Don’t have a plan for delegating

Delegating needs a bit of thought, and some preparation. What is your purpose for delegating this task? What outcome do you expect? How will you measure success of the task? If you don’t know the answer to these three questions, and haven’t communicated them then it’s likely things won’t go very smoothly.

So next time you’re going to delegate something, make sure you’ve thought these things through. POM – purpose, outcome, measure.

Assume they won’t do it as well as you.

Let’s be honest, nobody does stuff as well as you. If you’re a control freak like me then this can be a serious barrier to delegating effectively.

You need to accept that the task may suffer at first, and allow a bit of leeway. Remember when you did the task for the first time, I bet you were rubbish? This is a normal part of the learning cycle, and important for people’s development. Support them early on and you will reap the rewards later. You never know, one day they might do it better than you…

Don’t set clear measures for success

I’ve written about the SMART framework before, and the ability to set measures for success is a key skill for a manager. I like to use phrases such as “if you do X you will meet my expectations”, or “not delivering this piece of work by Friday will mean you’ve not met my expectations”.

If the person you’re delegating to knows what success and failure looks like you’re far more likely to get a great outcome.

Don’t give any feedback

Feedback should be specific and timely – i.e. don’t just wait till your weekly one to one. Let them know how they’re getting on in real-time at first (you can reduce the frequency of feedback as they master the task).

If you wait until the annual performance review to let them know how badly they’ve been doing for the last 6 months, then you’re a bit of a rubbish manager in my opinion…

Don’t let go

An element of being good at delegating is letting go. This can be harder than it sounds; if previously you carried out the task and liaised with the stakeholders then its all-too-easy to keep your fingers in the pie.

Give your team member space to succeed or fail under his/her own steam. If you support them too closely they’ll never develop fully into the task, and will probably feel micro-managed.

Take it back off them if they’re struggling

Do you want a clear sign that you’re rubbish at delegating? If you keep taking delegated tasks back this is a classic sign that you suck at delegating.

But what about if your credibility is suffering due to continual poor performance of a team member – isn’t it easier just to do the piece of work? Short term answer is yes, but you’re going to struggle to hand the work over in the long term. It’s either your poor delegating or their poor performance…


So there you are – 6 simple ways that you can be totally rubbish at delegating! You can findĀ a great article on delegation at – one of my favourite websites…

Why not check out some of my other How to be Rubbish articles? I’ve got ones on CV writing, job interviews, presentations, taking exams and revising!