How To Win At Delegation

Delegation is so massively misunderstood it’s crazy. Here’s a good example of how bad it can be. I used to watch The Apprentice back in the day because it was an incredible example of how NOT to lead people. You see the worst leadership from start to finish.

My favorite episodes were at the end of the season, when there were two people battling to win the spot of the “Apprentice.” The show brought back three former players to be team members for each finalist. Then, the finalists “lead” the new teams. Almost every time, one of the finalists will be off to the side on camera talking about how leading is giving people a task and then getting out of the way and trusting the team to use their talents to get the job done.

Then, you see a camera on some of the team members running around saying, “I have no clue what I’m doing, I’ve never done this before, and I can’t seem to get our leader to give me direction.”  In the end, their leader is usually the one who loses the game. Go figure.

That’s a HORRIBLE way to lead, much less delegate! Delegation is not giving someone a task and then waiting to see if they fail. It’s making sure you do everything possible to help that person succeed. So here are a few things you can do, so you don’t end up like an Apprentice loser:

  • Grow up already – You can’t delegate unless you are mature enough to understand how important it is to growing your business. When you properly delegate, you duplicate yourself. As a leader, you goal should be to get all the tasks off of your plate, so you can—it’s crazy, I know—LEAD! But you can’t if you’re stuck every day doing things someone else can do. Too many times I hear leaders say, “Well it’s just faster if I do it myself.” Yes, because you weren’t mature enough to teach someone the right way to do it. Proper delegation takes time. But when someone is trained, you’re golden.
  •  Do an ID check – While you have to be mature, so does the person you’re delegating to. If they can’t ask questions when they don’t understand something—For example, Is this supposed to be prostrate instead of prostate?—they will struggle in completing the task. They also have to be mature enough to not get in over their head. The person who says, “Oh, of course I’ve synthesized a mentholated alkaloid before I usually use vise grips for that. This person is going to be explaining to you why your project has missing pieces.

Now that I have you on the edge of your seat, I’m going to make you come back tomorrow for the rest.

Question: How have you seen delegation gone bad?

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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

14 thoughts on “How To Win At Delegation”

  1. Factoring in personality styles is important too. For instance don’t delegate something that requires strong attention to detail to a D, as in DISC, personality type. For readers who aren’t familiar with the DISC, Chris has written about it a few times here. Search DISC or perhaps he’ll be gracious enough to share a link or 2. 🙂

  2. Yup! Delegations do go bad at times. As humans, we tend to fail sometimes and it’s a trail and error game altogether. As a responsible leader, one need to ensure that he makes a calculated risk while delegating.

  3. Boy, every time I come here, I learn something more. Effective delegation is one of my weak zones. I need to get better at it! I really liked how you explained this in such an easy to grasp way. I totally have been the guy who gives a task, but never provides solid followup. Stang!

    Thank you Chris. This was so easy to get.

  4. You got me on this one. The times I’ve held leadership positions I’ve gotten so tangled up in building good relationships with the team, that the delegation process got really complicated. Either I did everything for them or I let them get away with not meeting deadlines. However, I keep growing and learning and in my most recent leadership positions in ministry I have been able to give direction, set some ground rules and step out the way to let the team shine. Not easy but I’ll keep working on it!

  5. The ID Check thing has haunted me a couple times. I have delegated stuff to people that had no business being delegated to based on their skill set or lack thereof, their lack of understanding the final picture (the vision), or just lacked the passion that the task required. Where i have no control as to who i’m going to work with, spending time understanding where they are coming from, their motivation has resulted in better results, not the best, but better results. Where i can choose and pick, it’s easier.

    I like the idea of duplicating my self, but it also takes a lot of confidence, skill to be able to look at the final product, and say, yes, i like it, now go multiply. On the other hand, if it was easy we’d all be great leaders. Some food for thought!

  6. We had a meeting in January with the group. I delegated a task (ordering product from 1 vendor @ same time every week) to 2 team members. So far, it hasn’t happened. I still end up doing it at the end of the day as neither one has done it before they left. How do you handle the slap on the back of the head?

    1. You have to start by slapping you. 🙂 You have to get in and walk them through the process until they h e it right. Also, is it possible they think the other person is doing it? Once you’ve walked them through, if they can’t get it, find someone who can.
      Everything points back to leadership.

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