Here are 10 phrases that team members should never hear from you:
1. “I know you haven’t finished that section yet, but this needs to be done right now!”
Good delegation is about setting priorities. While emergencies do happen, having “emergencies” every couple of days won't help productivity. It will hinder productivity. All that multi-tasking and switching around just isn't good for team morale.
A better approach is to think over the goals, priorities and deadlines right from the start and make sure your team understands them, so that people won’t randomly put off their other assignments in order to meet a deadline with one particular task.
Try this instead: "We have had to amend the project schedule, and this task should be next in line when you've finished your current task."
2. "I know you've never done anything like this before, but I'm sure you can handle it."
There's nothing to raise a team member's stress level like hearing this phrase. Everyone wants the chance to improve their skills, but is it really fair to put someone in that position without adequate preparation or training? Not really, and your project won't be run efficiently that way, either.
Try to always delegate tasks from one area to the same people, so that they can perfect their skills, and also let them learn from a different person, if necessary. Otherwise, be ready to dedicate some of your time to brief them if you want to receive worthy results.
Try this instead: "I've arranged for you to work with a colleague so you can learn this skill; in the future you'll be able to can handle it on your own."
3. "Well, this is actually a super-easy task to do; anyone can do it."
Usually saying this is meant to make the assignee feel less nervous about the task ahead. That's commendable, but it often has an unintended side-effect. People could think that you're really saying that they don't have the right skills to handle something really complex and challenging – and that's not the message you want to send at all.
There are two things to keep in mind: never minimize the importance of the task you are delegating, and don't doubt the skills of the assignee. Someone who feels appreciated and trusted to do something important will step up and do a better job.
Try this instead: "This task is important to the project; that's why I'm trusting you to do it."
4. "Just come up with something, and we’ll see if it fits."
The issue with this phrase is lack of clarity, and we all know how that ends up. If you don't have an idea about the result you want, then how can the assignee deliver it? Most likely, you’ll waste a lot of time going over the options he proposes, based on his standpoint and skills, and it is possible that none of them will fit.
A better approach is put together a list of criteria for possible solutions and ask the assignee to come up with different options, so you can select the best approach.
Try this instead: "I'd like you to come up with a solution. Here are the criteria to use to assess possibilities."
5. "That's not the way I would have done it."
A “my way or the highway” approach leads you directly to micromanagement and discourages others from taking responsibility for tasks and achievements – and that's the whole point of delegation. OK, so you would have taken another route, but as long as the solution works, does it matter if your colleague did things differently? In the end, the project benefits because you now have two viable approaches to an issue.
Try this instead: "I hadn't thought of tackling the task this way, but well done for coming up with such a great solution!"
6. "I’m going on a business trip for a week. By that time, things need to be done."
We all have to take business trips, but disappearing right before a project is due to complete is not ideal, especially if you're going to be out of touch for part of the period. When crunch time is approaching, that's exactly when team members need to ask questions and clarify things – and you need to be available.
The only exception to this rule is if you still can stay in the loop with assignees, tracking their progress and guiding them if necessary with the help of an online tool.
Try this instead: "I'm going on a business trip, but I'll check into our workspace [into Wrike project management software] daily to answer any queries."
7. "You should have shown me it before the deadline…"
Ever had a project delivered and found it was not what you expected? That's where the phrase above comes in, but using it usually means a failure to set up the project properly.
Your goals might be crystal clear, but the only way to know if you're on track to meet them is to set up milestones and checkpoints with the assignee, so you are not disappointed on the project delivery date. Do this, and you can get rid of issues before they become major problems.
Try this instead: "Is the project on track? We should have a meeting to see where we are before the ultimate deadline."
8. "You should have asked me first before making such an important decision!"
Delegation is all about allowing others to make some of the decisions. But if people involved don’t know their responsibilities, authority and the chain of command, you may get some surprises that you won’t like. It should be clear what decisions the assignee can take on his/her own, simply reporting the results to you, and which ones require your permission.
Try this instead: "Here's an outline of the project team and responsibilities so you know what decisions you can make."
9. "I've asked your colleague to handle the task, as well."
Delegating the same task to more than one person is a classic mistake. Some people think of this as a way of inspiring healthy competition, but it usually has the opposite effect. Instead, colleagues become obsessed with being the one to win recognition for getting the project right. That means they don't share information, and they don't collaborate effectively – and that can hurt the overall project.
Another possible outcome is when people start shifting their responsibility to each other, so that no one feels responsible for the result any longer. Either way, it’s not what you want to get, right?
Try this instead: "I want you to work with a colleague on this, but you each have responsibility for a different part of the project."
10. "This is not exactly what it’s supposed to be, but OK, I’ll finalize it on my own."
Finally, good delegation is about clear accountability and knowing the deliverables. If someone is supposed to deliver certain things at certain times, and the project has been on schedule, then there's no reason to accept the poor quality result.
Only accept thoroughly done work, and your employees will know the standard they need to achieve. After all, if you have to finalize it, what was the point of delegation anyway?
Try this instead: "This isn't exactly right; shall we have a meeting about how you can fix it?"
Do you have any phrases to add to this "delegation black list"?