We’ve all been told that “if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” and this expression has lead to more professional burnout and stress than almost any other.
Whether you’re a small business owner or the leader of a team, it’s essential that you learn to let go of certain tasks, and trust others to complete them in your stead. You might know more about your processes and requirements than anyone else, but there’s only so much one person is capable of accomplishing. If you want your business to grow, eventually you’ll have to set aside your ego and begin delegating some of your work.
Delegation is the act of entrusting work to someone else, and is a concept that many leaders struggle with. But when it comes down to it, would you rather have someone else complete a task, or suffer a reduction in your overall quality of work? Hopefully the answer to this question is obvious.
So now that you’re ready to try out this whole delegation thing, how do you start?
Deciding what to delegate
First, make a list of all of your current tasks – everything from responding to voicemails, to meeting with clients, to running reports.
Next, review your list, making a note of every task that does not absolutely have to be completed by you. For example, you’ll likely need to return your own phone calls, but anyone else on your team can be taught to run those reports.
Tip: If your list is still overwhelming, consider delegating certain parts of a task – for example, the research required for a meeting, or the initial draft of a business proposal.
Choosing who will inherit the work
When determining who should take over your tasks, there are a few things to consider:
- Who has shown skills or experience in this particular area?
- Who has expressed a desire to advance their career in the direction of this task?
- Who has the time to learn and complete this project?
- Who can be trusted to work independently and reliably?
The final two points on this list are perhaps the most important – after all, you don’t want to overload someone else, nor do you want to create more work for yourself by assigning the project to someone who requires micromanaging or the regular fixing of mistakes.
Passing the torch
Depending on the work being passed off, there are a few ways you might approach this phase of the process:
If the only thing that matters is the end result, present the task in those terms – let the person taking over decide exactly how he or she would like to reach those results. While their methods might differ from yours, by letting the worker use his or her own process, you’re showing faith in their work while opening up the possibility for innovation.
If, however, the actual process is what matters most, do your best to simplify it before handing it over. By providing your team member with easy-to-follow instructions, you reduce the need for micromanaging while ensuring everything is done correctly.
Managing the project
Just because someone else has taken over the task doesn’t mean you’ve wiped your hands of it completely. Especially in the early stages, there will be a learning curve, and you need to expect a few questions.
As things progress, trust your chosen person to complete the task, but check in from time-to-time to ensure things are going well. After all, while you might no longer be responsible for this project, you are still accountable for it. Blaming someone else if things go poorly isn’t an option.
At the same time, remember to follow Dale Carnegie’s second Principle of Success, and give honest, sincere appreciation. Never take credit for the work of another, and show gratitude for the hard work of the people who have helped to reduce your workload.
While it will be tough to delegate tasks at first, the more you do it the more comfortable you will become with the process, until eventually you can focus on managing your team and giving your attention to those tasks that truly require it.
“By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected.” – Dale Carnegie
For a more in-depth study of how to delegate effectively, register for Dale Carnegie’s live online course on delegation.