Common Mistakes When Delegating

by Mar 10, 2021

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Common Mistakes When Delegating

By Marshall Krupp, Professional EOS Implementer
In collaboration with Ashley Berecz, Executive Assistant

As an executive leader, delegating is a crucial skill set to have but not necessarily the easiest to master. It can be effortless to fall into the trap of believing that you must do everything yourself, but that mindset will only hinder your organization down the road and will end up leaving you frustrated. Trust for some does not come naturally, and it’s also hard to give up control on a project when you believe that you can do the job better than the employees underneath you. Now, maybe that last part is true and you can do the job better, but do you have the time? Can the employees underneath you do the job just as well? Does this task specifically require you to complete it?

Theodore Roosevelt said that “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.”

Without delegation, there is always an inevitable outcome… our plates become full and things that need to get done… don’t.  It is a continuing downward spiral that prevents us from getting caught up.

Let me share a metaphor of our plates being full.  Imagine this!  You go into your favorite Italian restaurant and order a plate of spaghetti.  Your server brings you an oval plate piled high like the tallest mountain with your order of spaghetti and your favorite sauce to the edge of the plate.  You realize after-the-fact that you want one of those large softball size meatballs covered with more of your favorite sauce.  Along comes the meatball on a separate plate and you add it to the top of the spaghetti on the oval plate that the spaghetti was served on. So, what happens to the meatball and the sauce you just added?  Yep, it rolls off the plate onto the floor lost forever in the trash!

So, what can you do to make room on your plate of spaghetti for the meatball?  Well, how about eat some of the spaghetti yourself and get it off the plate to make room?  That’s one option.  In essence, start to eat away at the work that needs to get done.

How about dividing the meatball into quarters and adding it to the plate one quarter at a time as you eat the spaghetti and the other quarters?  In essence, add smaller chunks of work to your plate one at a time.

Or here is the big one, how about splitting the spaghetti in half and giving half of it to someone else to partake in your order?  Now, just spread the half portion of the spaghetti around the plate and reduce the tall mountain to a short hill and place the meatball in the center of the plate that you just made room on.  It won’t roll off.  That is another option… the option of delegating the spaghetti to another to make room on the plate.  Delegation is the decision to give some of your spaghetti away to make room on the plate for the meatball as a whole or each of its quarters.  You see, if you don’t delegate, the meatball (adding more tasks to your plate) will simply roll off and they will end up lost on the floor or in the trash.

With that said, let’s talk about some delegation mistakes that executives make:

They don’t delegate at all: There could be many reasons for this; lack of trust, fear of losing control, and the uncertainty of what will happen after. All of these explanations are valid, but if you never delegate, then as an executive, how are you supposed to be able to get everything on your to-do list done? If you’ve successfully surrounded yourself with an A+ team, you have to have faith in them to get the job done and meet your expectations in the process. If you don’t have confidence in your team, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate.  Maybe you don’t have the right people in the right seats on the right bus.

They don’t delegate the $20 an hour jobs: As a leader, your to-do list is never-ending, and with a list like yours, it’s essential to utilize the people underneath you. You hired them to work under you for a reason. An executive’s time needs to be spent working on the $200, the $500, and the $1,000 per hour work instead of the $20 to $50 per hour work. If you stay lost in the $20 per hour work, the leadership that your business needs will suffer and starts a vicious cycle of frustration.  Consider this.  If you do 8-hours per week of say $50 per hour work, that has a cost of $400.  You could be doing $500 per hour work for those same 8-hours or a value of $4,000.  That’s a net value to your business of $3,600.  So, there is an obvious decision… delegate $20 per hour work to others.

Delegate to the wrong person or team: This may seem to be common sense, but look at the big picture. You wouldn’t have your finance team working on social media and your marketing team working on accounts receivables. This must also be kept in mind when delegating tasks to a specific person.   Let me share an example.  I was working with an executive that had a critical work product to get done.  He simply wanted to get it off his desk.  He called in one of his employees and delegated the task to that individual.  The employee not wanting to be viewed by the executive as not being capable of doing the job, accepted the assignment without any hesitation or reservation.  Two weeks later when the job was due, the employee was still trying to figure out what needed to be done.  This frustrated the executive and he just decided to do it himself.  There are a lot of tangents that we could discuss here, but the most important is that the executive simply did not delegate to the right person.  So, before you delegate, make sure that the person you are delegating to “gets it”, “wants it” and has the “capacity to do it”.  Otherwise, your expectations may not be fulfilled.

When they delegate, they give vague instructions: How is your employee supposed to correctly complete the job if they don’t have the instructions to go off of?  Delegation requires clear communication and a road map. You wouldn’t throw someone into a new role without any training beforehand. Keep in mind that clarity when delegating is vital. Leave no stone unturned or question unanswered because if you leave room for confusion, once the due date hits and you are not happy with the work turned in, the task will become an issue.  And when you delegate, always attach accurate and complete due dates.  If you want something done by Friday, make sure you indicate which Friday and the time of the day that it is due.

They insist the job be done their way: This pitfall lands under being able to give up control. It’s important to keep an open mind and note that maybe someone will come up with a better process than the one you currently have. Explain what you believe to work best and then leave them to it, don’t hover. Micromanaging leads to frustration, although many of us simply cannot let go of the micromanaging behavior.  Micromanaging will cause you to put as much time into controlling the outcome, then if you did it yourself.  You can live in the story that “no one can do it better than you”, or you can trust that the job will get done by someone in their own way and that the results will be just as valuable.  So the question you want to ask yourself is… “Do you want to do it your way and have too much on the plate to get it done at all, or do you want to delegate and make space on your plate to do the important things that need to get done?”

The job of a leader and manager is to do just that, LEAD and MANAGE. When leaders delegate effectively, it frees up their time, allows them to develop their management skills, and develops trust. Delegation also allows employees to feel that they are contributing to the organization’s success by also building their morale and improving their skills.

One last thought to consider… delegate and elevate!  When leaders and managers delegate to others, they are sending the message “I trust you”.  That message and the work that has been delegated elevates the employee.  It is one of the simplest ways of engaging an employee to raise their bar and succeed even greater in the organization.  Time after time I see organizations gain greater success simply because they trust their employees, they execute a culture of delegation and accountability, and in turn, they elevate the performance and use of time by everyone.

Do you struggle with delegating? If so, I would be happy to schedule some time with you to start a conversation. Please contact us at or go to our website and contact us virtually. We will be happy to get back to you!



TractionPureis an affiliate of Peer Executive Boards and focused on “elevating entrepreneur businesses from complexity to simplicity” using the EOS® Model and Process.  EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® takes entrepreneur businesses on a journey of mastery of the EOS tools which enables businesses to elevate their leadership teams to make better decisions, maintain a level of accountability, and attain greater success more simplistically.  The components of EOS® are Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction, which when used effectively attains a healthier organization with greater success.  Marshall Krupp is the founder and Principal of TractionPure2 and a recognized Professional EOS® Implementer serving clients throughout the nation.  He is also a national speaker, a past award-winning Vistage Worldwide Chair, and a past career in providing crisis management strategic service to businesses, governmental agencies, and not-for-profit organizations.


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