When Delegating, Acknowledge Possible Errors

Earlier this year, the ever-brilliant Ben Casnocha wrote an interesting essay reflecting upon his “10,000 Hours with Reid Hoffman,” the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent Silicon Valley investor. As Hoffman’s chief of staff for two years, Casnocha worked on strategic aspects of Hoffman’s many personal and professional projects. The two also authored “Start-up of You” (on career management) and “The Alliance” (on talent management).

Casnocha’s “What I Learned” essay is full of helpful management and leadership insights. Here’s one on delegation:

If you’re a manager and care seriously about speed, you’ll need to tell your people you’re willing to accept the tradeoffs [of delegation]. Reid did this with me. We agreed I was going to make judgment calls on a range of issues on his behalf without checking with him. He told me, “In order to move fast, I expect you’ll make some foot faults. I’m okay with an error rate of 10-20%—times when I would have made a different decision in a given situation—if it means you can move fast.” I felt empowered to make decisions with this ratio in mind—and it was incredibly liberating.

When Delegating, Acknowledge Possible Errors

Idea for Impact: When Delegating, Acknowledge Possible Error

Managers can’t do everything. They must accept that they’ll need to delegate tasks often, knowing full well—often with good reason—that employees may not do those tasks as well or as fast as they managers would themselves.

To build confidence in employees’ skills in handling delegated tasks, managers can give employees a few initial low-risk tasks. As the manager gets more confident with the employee, the scope of delegated authority can expand.

Nobody makes optimal decisions every time. Demanding perfection from employees is unrealistic. Clarifying expectations, negotiating limits, expecting mistakes, and establishing confidence can be incredibly relieving and empowering to both managers and employees.

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