I don’t think of myself as someone good at delegating. I tend to want things done when I want them done, and it’s easier to do them myself rather than waiting for someone else to do them on their time (thinking about household chores here…).
But as I have got on in my career, it has become more important to learn how to delegate, and to do it well.
Here are 5 risks that present when you delegate something and what you can do about them.
1. The job is done badly
There is a risk that the job is not done to the standard you require. This could happen if the person is not capable of doing the work correctly, perhaps because you’ve delegated to the wrong person – someone who has not been trained, for example. There might have been a hiring error: someone looked great on paper and performed well at interview but they aren’t really right for the role.
2. The wrong job is done
There is a risk that the wrong task is done completely. This hasn’t happened to me often, but on one project we did have a team member edit the wrong version of a document, and that work had to be done again. Miscommunication was the reason that happened, so again, this risk should be totally within your control as the project manager to mitigate.
3. The job goes overbudget
There is a risk that the work costs more than if you had done it yourself, for various reasons including it taking longer. I had this with copywriting I outsourced. The person who took on the job did an excellent job, but in the end it required more rework than I had anticipated, so it cost more.
4. The job takes longer
There is a risk that the work takes longer than planned. This could happen because the person you delegate to is busier than they thought they would (or that you thought they would be) or their priorities are changed by their manager. Or they simply work slower than you would do, and you estimated the task based on the speed that you would do it yourself.
This can happen when work is delegated to less experienced colleague as well: typically, experienced staff take less time to do the same job as they don’t need to do so much research or checking.
5. The job is not done at all
There is a risk that the work is not done at all. This could happen as a result of you thinking you delegated but you actually didn’t: manager error, for example, the email got stuck in your outbox. Or perhaps you communicated so gently that they didn’t pick up on the fact you were actually asking them to do the work at all.
It could also be an error on their side. Perhaps they dropped the ball and haven’t got round to it yet, or they have deliberately chosen not to do it and are ghosting you. I think this scenario is rare, but I suppose it could happen.
What risks have you found from delegating? Any to add to the list? Or have you been in any situations where you’ve delegated and it hasn’t turned out exactly as planned?