5 Ways to Delegate so you can Focus on what Matters and Empower your Team

When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders.” Craig Groeschel.

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur and a leader you have to learn to delegate well — it’s a fundamental leadership skill.

According to a Gallup study, CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33% higher revenue.

You can’t do everything yourself. You need a team to help you succeed and a team who is motivated to go beyond the call of duty. Without effective delegation you will have disempowered team members who don’t have the autonomy and space to flourish. And, you will quickly get overwhelmed and lose your impact as you prioritise the wrong tasks.

When I am coaching entrepreneurs on delegation I usually start off digging into the reasons why they don’t like doing it. The common answers are:

I’m the best person to do this task

I don’t have anyone good enough on the team to delegate to”

“It is so much quicker if I do it myself”

“I don’t have time to provide training or guidance”

“I tried to delegate but it ended up taking up much more time and I had to redo the task anyway”

“I don’t want to overload my already overworked team member”

These explanations may be true or partly true but if you keep telling yourself these stories you will remain at the bottom of the delegation spiral where your productivity will remain low, you will be kept from working on the big impact tasks and your and your team’s growth will be limited.

I have set out below five ways great leaders can transition to delegating like their life depended on it.

1. Shift Your Mindset

Eight mindset shifts to focus on:

A. Transition from doing to leading
B. Understand the role of your ego in delegation
C. Understand your worth
D. Short-term pain, long-term gain
E. 85% rule
F. Allow for failure
G. Don’t expect to save all of your time
H. Trust upfront, but verify

A. Transition from doing to leading
The shift from doing to leading is one of the hardest transitions for leaders to make. Great leaders let others do great work, rather than do everything themselves.

Your team members may admire your rolling up your sleeves attitude but there is a big difference between being an individual contributor and an effective leader.

In order to raise the ceiling of your leadership potential, you need to empower and engage others to do their best work on the shared priorities. Giving your team members tasks which are slightly out of their comfort zones will result in progress beyond your expectations.

B. Understand the role of your ego in delegation
Ego is one of the main reasons leaders won’t delegate e.g. the belief only you can do the task to the right standard. Many leaders like to get things done, they are addicted to doing the tasks themselves, they like to be in control.

But remember your ego is not always helping you get ahead, it is interested in survival, in maintaining your self-image rather than helping you fulfill your potential and ambition. The key is to get addicted to delegation and not doing the task yourself.

C. Understand your worth
You should ask yourself whether you would pay someone on your salary to do basic admin, fill out forms or raise invoices. By understanding your worth, you will stop hiring yourself to do these low impact tasks. Just because you may currently be the best person to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

D. Save time in the medium- to long-term
For delegation to work you will need to make sure you allocate enough time to it; to train, guide, communicate, check progress, give feedback and give recognition.

All this involves additional work and effort. But think of it this way. If there is a task currently which takes you one hour a week — that is 52 hours over the year. If you allocate three to four hours to the delegation process and successfully get someone else to do the task, then over the year you will be saving 48 hours or 3 days of work. May not sound that much but how many one hour tasks could you delegate?

Short-term pain and time but long-term gain.

E. 85% rule
If you delegate tasks and expect them to be done exactly how you want them, you will be disappointed. A win in delegation is when something is done about 85 percent the way you would have done it, without you having to be involved. It’s counterproductive to be frustrated at that remaining 15 percent, because everyone has their own style and way of doing things. In time their focus on this task will hopefully result in them doing it as well as you did if not better. And on top of that it has allowed you to focus on what really matters.

F. Allow for failure
This step is particularly important for the perfectionists who avoid delegating because they think their way is the only way to get the work done. You need to allow for failure — not because your employees might fail, but because it will enable experimentation and empower the people you’re assigning tasks to, to take a new approach. Client-facing task delegation may appear too risky but mistakes in this domain can be the best learning experiences and lead to better outcomes in the future.

G. Don’t expect to save all of your time
25% time saved still means you are winning. Good delegators know they are likely at least initially to only save some of their time.

H. Trust upfront, but verify
Without trust relationships and businesses suffer. Super effective delegators trust by default, they don’t wait to build up trust. Give people the benefit of the doubt. “I trust you until you prove I can’t”.

Trust by default does not prevent you from checking in and making sure they are on top of things and in line with the timelines — trust by default, but verify.

If you feel you don’t trust them, they are more likely to feel undervalued and more likely to do sub-standard work.

2. Delegate The Right Task

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us,” Gandalf the Grey said to Frodo in the Lord of the Rings.

Thanks Gandalf. I’d liked to be Gandalf with all that wisdom!

One analogy I use is that you should choose your tasks like I choose my investments — I don’t say ‘yes’ to every opportunity I see and I am very selective on what I invest in. You should be as discerning about your time as I am about my investing.

I encourage my clients to use the Decision Matrix to help them decide what tasks or decisions they should work on, what to delegate and what to eliminate.

For every task or decision that lands on your desk or pings up on your laptop you should put it into one of the four quadrants:

  1. Irreversible and inconsequential
  2. Irreversible and consequential
  3. Reversible and inconsequential
  4. Reversible and consequential

The great thing about the matrix is that it can help you quickly delegate decisions and stop you getting bogged down in low impact decisions or tasks. You do have to do a bit of mental work before you start, such as defining and communicating consequentiality and reversibility with yourself and your team members.

You can delegate both types of inconsequential decisions. Inconsequential decisions are a great training ground to develop your delegation skills as well as the skills of your team. This can save you lots of time.

Consequential decisions are a different beast. As Shane Parish of Farnam Street says, “Reversible and consequential decisions are decisions which can fool you into thinking they are one big important decision”. In reality, reversible and consequential decisions are also the perfect decisions to delegate to help bolster the careers of your team members, to push your team members out of their comfort zone, and for them to learn to become responsible for execution.

Consequential and irreversible decisions are the ones that you really need to focus on. All of the time you save from using this matrix allows you to invest more time in the most important decisions, the ones you couldn’t justify delegating.

3. Play To Your Team Members’ Strengths and Goals

Now that you are clear what tasks you want to delegate, you can decide who to assign them to. You don’t want to throw the ball to just anyone over the other side of the net when you are delegating.

Ideally each team member has a clear set of goals they are working towards which guides you to what type of work to delegate to them. And also you are aware of the strengths of your team members and therefore which kind of tasks they will excel at.

You want to play to someone’s strengths rather than give them something which will de-energise them.

The sort of questions you should consider before passing on the baton are:

A. Experience, knowledge and skills. What experience, knowledge and skills are required for the task? Does the person already have these? Or will they need upskilling or extra resources to get the job done?

B. Strengths. Don’t assume all your team members have equal or the same strengths. What strengths will make sure the task gets done well? Which of your team members has the appropriate strengths?

C. Developmental potential. Consider what your team member’s goals are and how the delegated task could benefit them. Does this task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills? What does he or she want from his or her job? What are his or her long-term goals and interests, and how do these align with the work proposed?

D. Current workload. Does the person have time to take on more work? Does delegating this task mean you will need to shuffle other responsibilities and workloads?
People like to progress and giving them tasks outside their comfort zone will give them valuable learning and growth opportunities. They are likely to be much more engaged and empowered as a result.

4. Set People Up For Success

A star wants to see himself [herself] rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him [her] rise to the top.”
Simon Sinek.

This is so important!

The best painters and decorators (and yes they do exist!) know that 90% of the job is preparation and 10% is applying paint. The same applies to delegation.

Simply dumping work on someone else isn’t delegating. Ideally you include your team member in the delegation process.

Here are my top tips for setting people up for success.

A. Define the desired outcomes. Begin with the end in mind and specify the desired results.

B. Explain why the task is important for the business, for you and for the individual doing it. Explain the impact it will have.

C. Set clear timelines. Discuss and set timelines and deadlines.

D. Don’t tell people how to do it. Focus on the outcomes you want, rather than detailing how the work should be done. Your way is not necessarily the only or even the best way! Allow the person to control his or her own methods and processes. Autonomy is one of the key motivators and it facilitates trust.

E. Make it clear what authority levels they have. For example, if they have a total budget of £10k make sure that is clear and what individual amounts (e.g. £2k) they can spend without getting your approval.

F. Make sure there is total clarity on everything upfront by asking smart questions. Ask them to verbally explain to you what they have heard about outcomes, timelines, authority boundaries etc. Don’t ask them a question such as ‘do you understand everything?’ as they are likely to say ‘yes’ because they don’t want to look stupid in front of the boss. And get written confirmation of the plan too.

G. Reflect on the level of ‘task-maturity’ your team member has and apply the appropriate accountability and support i.e. the more experienced they are the less input from you. But even if the task is new to your team member, don’t micro-manage. Ask your team member how they would like to be managed. Agree on a schedule of checkpoints at which you’ll review project progress. Make sure you are available for any questions they have. Be coach-like when they come to you with problems, don’t jump in and solve the issue, stay curious, ask open questions in order to get your team member to come up with their own solutions.

5. Use Feedback And Recognition

You should deliver feedback to your team member during and after the task is completed.

Don’t be afraid to offer constructive feedback if appropriate to help them make changes to be even better next time.

To ensure you get better at delegating, you should ask for specific feedback on how you did.

Also be as effusive and specific about the positive feedback to your team member as possible. Give people the credit for a job well done.

Recognising success is not only the right thing to do but it also has the added benefit of making those around you more engaged. The more you credit the people you’ve delegated to, the more likely they will want to help you on future projects in the future.

Summary

Many leaders fall into two traps:

A. They fail to delegate, jumping in to solve problems for their team, completing tasks themselves and suffocating their team with micromanagement.

B. They delegate without setting proper expectations or providing clear instructions then expect things to turn out exactly as they would have done it.

And then leaders will vacillate between the two as they don’t give proper guidance and then snap back into doing it themselves.

Fail to delegate and you really will put a limit on your potential and your company’s.

You need to learn to let go, stay out of the delegation spiral so that you can spend more time on the high value and impact tasks.

Delegation leads to your own priorities coming to life through the inspired actions of your team members.

___

Keep well. Give > Take.

To anyone out there whose loved one has cancer, my heart is with you

Mark

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