I’m a fan of delegation. In fact, I consider myself somewhat of a professional delegator, if there is such a thing. I certainly love to delegate. I think it makes the team stronger.
As a leader, have you ever given away a project and wished you could take it back?
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be one of the more difficult and awkward parts of leadership.
Maybe it was the wrong fit for the person. Perhaps the person was overloaded with other responsibilities. You may have misjudged their potential, so you gave them the delegation. Now you wish you hadn’t.
What do you do?
How do you take back a delegated project without causing hurt feelings, injuring a valued team member, or causing disruption in the organization? Many times the person has assumed a certain sense of ownership and pride in the assignment, even if they haven’t done a good job with it. Taking the project away from them may feel like personal rejection.
What do you do? How do you do it?
Here are 5 ways to take back a delegated project:
Set up the right to remove on the front end
The process should really be clear from the beginning. The culture of a healthy organization has everyone operating as a team. It’s easier to do the right thing on a healthy team – even reassign an project. You may not be able to do it this time, but certainly work towards establishing that kind of environment for the future.
Make sure you delegate well
Effective delegation will eliminate much of the need to take back a project. You can read more about healthy delegation HERE and HERE, but basically, try to help. This can happen at any stage in the project, but ideally should come before and during the process of completing a delegated project. It could be the person doesn’t have all the answers or all the resources to complete what’s been assigned. They may be afraid to ask for help.
Do it quickly
As soon as you realize the person is not going to be able to complete the task, if you’ve tried working with them, but it hasn’t helped, address and re-assign as soon as possible. The longer you wait the harder it will be for everyone.
Do it graciously
If done correctly, it could be a relief for them, as well as the organization. You may be able to refocus the person’s attention on other things, but certainly you should try to encourage their overall potential in the process.
Help them learn
They may not have been able to do this particular project, but, if handled correctly, it could end up being beneficial for their personal development. Help them see what they did wrong, why the delegated task is being reassigned, and how they could do things differently in the future.
The bottom line is the organization must move forward. Sometimes this means tasks have to be reassigned. Good leaders are willing to make hard decisions, even if it means taking back a delegated project.
Have you ever had to take back a delegated project? How did you do it?