When not to delegate?

Delegation is one of the first few skills taught to professionals once they transition into managerial roles. It is considered to be one of the good management practices; helping leaders get more work done and also enabling development of team members. However, we have all witnessed situations where improper delegation by the leader ended up creating more work and confusion. Thus, before delegating, it’s a good idea to analyze and weigh the pros and cons. Needless to say; there are times when leaders are better off by not delegating. Following could be few situations

1. Lack of clarity – ambiguity rules the work arena these days. There are projects which tend to be fluid with loosely defined deliverables and undefined approach. Delegating such projects can result in unwarranted delays and lot of heart ache, especially if the team is inexperienced.

2. Stakes are high – I remember a manager who had to prepare a presentation for the board members. He had short time to finish it; to top that he had planned to go for a brief vacation the next day. So, he decided to delegate it to one of his team members. He explained the context and points to be covered in the presentation and proceeded for his vacation. He expected to add few finishing touches to the presentation after his return and thus save a lot of time. Unfortunately, he had a ghastly surprise awaiting him! The presentation was nowhere close to what he wanted it to be, and still fewer hours left to complete it! Wonder if he could blame his team member for this. The poor soul had worked very hard and put in extra efforts. But, her thoughts and approach were very different from that of her manager. Clearly, this was one case where delegation should have been avoided. 

3. Development opportunity for self – a leader is responsible for development of his people. But, he is also responsible for developing himself. Thus, if a situation offers significant learning – something that the leader clearly needs to develop himself – it may not be an ideal work to delegate.

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