The flip side: When delegation backfires

I received emails from good friends after my last article,”Get out of your way!”  who all similar stories about allowing an employee to run their part of the business, only to have been burnt. These business owners expected their employees to execute and manage their business in a responsible way. They also did not believe in “micromanaging” and felt that empowered employees were productive and happy employees.

What they did not count on was the employee taking too much liberty with their freedom and ultimately hurting the company. I heard stories of missed deadlines, unauthorized software downloads, and outside system/software login information not being recorded and shared. The other recurring theme is these companies all had fewer than five employees, so these issues were catastrophic for the organization.

Here are some areas you can implement to help you benefit from delegation while minimizing the impact of an employee abusing your trust:

Communicate Expectations

Communicate your expectations on the individual’s performance and operating parameters right up front as well as ongoing. So many business leaders discuss the job, but we don’t take the next step on our expectations on how to operate or communication internally and externally. This is NOT micromanaging! You are communicating your expectation on how they will operate in your business. Micromanaging would be telling them specifically how you want them to do each task.


Hold your employees accountable for their actions, inactions, and deliverables against your expectations. This is NOT micromanaging! This is a regular discussion of progress against goals, and updates from your employee on those actions they have taken. This is where you uncover any new software downloads and changes in web based services.

I ran an IT services business about 6 years ago and the organization delivered terrible customer service. In fact, our largest customer told me on my 3rd day running the company that the business was: 1.) “Worst in Breed” in every category, 2.) Our customer satisfaction was so bad it brought down the overall average, and 3.) Our service delivery was negatively impacting management bonuses. Four months later the business was: 1.) Number two provider overall, 2.) “Best of Breed” in four out of six categories, and 3.) Earned the first company bonus for meeting / exceeding our service metrics in over 20 years of working with this company.

I get asked often how we accomplished such a quick turnaround in service delivery and it comes down to this: We communicated expectations and held our employees accountable to meet those expectations.


What lacked in most of the companies that had bad experiences in delegation was process. Develop process that provides the business with documentation on changes, new software, and any login information for critical services to the business. If these processes do not exist, then use your employee to develop these processes and have them present them to you for approval and implementation. This way the employee cannot use the excuse of “I didn’t know”.

Obviously process is no good if it is not followed. This is where we go back to communicating expectations and holding them accountable for meeting those expectations. It is critical that you set aside time to review activity. These areas become the basis of a one-on-one meeting that is held on a regular interval. The interval may be every week or every other week in addition to any group staff meetings that may be held.


Staff meetings, all company meetings, and individual one-on-one meetings are a necessary part of managing the delegation process. It gives you a way of communicating company results and direction on a regular basis, and reviewing progress against those overall goals. You will never hear from your employees that you over communicate. Even in companies where I felt that we boarded on over communications, I always received information from employees that we did not communicate enough information.

Get it started

There are huge benefits to delegating to your employees. It provides you with additional time for more strategic initiatives as well as time to work on business development. The structure and communication needs to be in place to effectively leverage the skills in your organization. Don’t be discouraged if you had a bad experience in the past. Review the information in this and my previous article to develop a program that generates results.
{pagebreak:Page 1}

Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations. Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits. Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of two books “Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms” and “Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times”. For additional information visit

“Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times” provides additional information on areas that can positively impact your company


Categories: Management & Leadership