Do you struggle to get all of your tasks completed?
Does it feel like no one else can (or will) do as good a job as you can do yourself?
Has your personal life been sacrificed to a business that isn't keeping you warm at night?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you may be having trouble delegating. This article will give you some helpful hints and make it easier for you to delegate effectively and efficiently while developing a high-performance and low-maintenance team to support you they way you (specifically) need to be supported.
There are three key things to keep in mind about effective delegating:
- You should ONLY be doing things that are profitable and that only you can do;
- Systems and checklists keep quality high and maintenance low;
- Clear and precise initial training plus periodic reviews save time and minimize long-term headaches.
First, it's critical that you know your strengths so you can focus on what you do best. As a business owner, executive, leader, CEO, or subject matter expert (SME), the tasks that only you can do are why you have the position you have. If you're a craftsman or an artist, you can't delegate that to someone without your skillset, but there are plenty of other business activities you CAN delegate.
If you are spending time on activities that aren't profitable or in your area of genius, you're wasting money. For example, if you don't have a head for accounting, you need to hire someone to do that for you. This has several benefits.
First, you have less chance of errors, since you're hiring someone who has the necessary skills and aptitude. Second, this saves you money.
Let's imagine that your time spent getting business or working with clients is worth $100/ hour. If you did the bookkeeping yourself, it might take you 3 hours ($300), while a qualified bookkeeper might be able to do the same work in 1 hour. Even if his or her time is also worth $100/ hour, you've saved $200. If it's worth $50 or $75/ hour, you've saved even more. Finally, it allows you to spend your time doing things that are profitable and unique to your position. Imagine if, instead of doing the bookkeeping, you were out marketing for new clients (or marketing new services to existing clients). The returns quickly stack up.
If you're not sure which activities in your workday can or should be delegated, use the "How to Delegate Activity" found here to clarify how you're spending your time. Remember, spending time is the same as spending money--once you waste it, it's gone.
A supplementary point to this first one is to assign duties to the people who are best suited to them. Establishing a high-performance team is a topic for another day, but it is critical to have a support team you trust and can rely on. When people are valued for their strengths and are doing jobs they're good at and love (or at least are happy with), they will be more productive, effective, and efficient. So, don't assign creative design work to your in-house bookkeeper or vice versa. Let your team members do what they do best, and everyone will be satisfied.
The second and third points are related, so we'll talk about those together.
Once you know what you can delegate, if you're like most business people I know, you'll face two challenges: (1) how to maintain your high standard of quality (this is critical for any self-identified control freaks), and (2) who to trust with something that has been (to this point) so critical that you have not yet delegated it away.
The easiest way to maintain quality control is to have systems, checklists, and procedures in place, so that anyone with a minimal qualification level can pick up the task and complete it independently. This solves both of the challenges listed above, when the initial time is invested (and it IS an investment) to make the systems, checklists, and procedures easy to follow.
The easiest way to create your systems is to have someone (preferably the person you will be delegating to) write down the procedure step-by-step as you're doing it. This serves two purposes: (1) it provides training for your delegatee, and (2) it gives you the opportunity to have someone else looking over the protocol you're establishing. When you've been doing something for a long time, it is incredibly easy to skip steps (or not include them in your checklist), because they've become second nature to you. This also means that there's a better chance the protocol will be clear to anyone who picks it up, since there will have been at least two sets of eyes on it.
About the minimal qualification level... this is not because you think the person you're delegating to is incompetent. This is so anyone can pick up the task if needed. If your prized assistant gets sick, goes on vacation, or (god forbid) quits, you want to know that a temporary worker could do the task without interrupting YOUR work duties. You do not want to be in a position where all of your assistant's work (or the bookkeeper's, or the graphic designer's) is dumped on you OR where you have to train a new person on the spot. All of those scenarios waste your precious time and money.
Once you have done the training and have the initial protocols established, it's time for your delegatee to start using them. There should always be checklists--this makes it easy and nearly foolproof if you've established good systems. As your delegatee goes through the new protocol step-by-step, he or she should be empowered to make small changes to the system if there are ways to improve it. They may have ideas you have not considered.
Any major changes to the system (especially ones that affect the outcomes) should be discussed with you, and small changes should be reviewed at that time as well. I recommend having them run through the process 2-3 times and then report back to you on how well the system is working. That way, you can be sure that the quality is being maintained, and that they understand what you need out of the task.
Establishing periodic follow-ups and systems reviews help make sure things are being done to your satisfaction. It provides a regular schedule for communicating about the tasks and shouldn't interfere with you doing those things that only you can do. This allows your delegatee to take ownership and responsibility for the tasks, while you maintain a feeling of comfort in the quality control.
When your systems are firmly established and reliable, you may find that you can even delegate quality control... but let's not get ahead of ourselves....
Depending on how frequently your delegated tasks are being performed, you will want to establish a periodic review or systems audit. My company's operations manual is reviewed annually to ensure our systems, protocols, and checklists are current and relevant. There is nothing worse than investing time to create systems, letting them go unused, and having to start all over again... except maybe having to do it on the spot when someone quits, retires, or goes on leave.
If you establish systems, invest in upfront training and regular reviews, and delegate tasks to the appropriate team member, it will be much easier for you, the executive, leader, CEO, or SME to let go. Then you can spend your valuable time doing those things that only you can do.