Once you have trained and shared knowledge with your team through osmosis or learning by proxy (which I covered in my last article), the hard part becomes letting go of your ego and delegating work to your capable team. The truth is that it is not usually sustainable for you or your growing business to do everything yourself. If you can only manage to make one change, ensure you follow the first rule, as it is the golden rule of delegation: Learn when to delegate.
Rule 1: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
I am not suggesting that your team should claim things are beneath their pay level or that it isn’t “their job” because we all need to work toward the same goals. What I am referring to is avoiding the pitfall of being capable and willing: doing everything yourself. The issue here is, firstly, that other people do not learn unless they jump in and secondly, in the future you will probably be called on to do the same thing as before because the competency wasn’t transmitted. Both of these consequences can slow down your efficiency and productivity.
If a task takes one of my most senior employees one day to complete, I encourage the senior consultant to delegate the task to a junior consultant, even if the task will take double the time plus validation (see below) with the senior consultant — and even if we can only bill for the original eight hours. So we are happy to invest the extra time. Why? Because I’ve found employees are happiest when they’re working on tasks they enjoy (instead of the ones they can delegate), or new projects and tasks (which is what they can do when we delegate).
If you want to achieve organizational growth, I believe your leaders have to understand the importance of delegation; otherwise, the company may not achieve stabilization. This is because there will be a high dependency on a few employees without enough time to complete the necessary work. What works in the short term doesn’t always work when you scale.
If you have employees that should be delegating but are not, help them understand how this impacts them, limits other employees’ growth and even reduces the speed at which you can grow your business.
When any employee says they are overworked, I ask them why they don’t give a task to someone else. Then, I explain how in the long term it is better to take the time to train someone earlier on so that, eventually, they can do it by themselves. If an employee complains again that they’re too busy, I know it’s because they didn’t delegate. At this point, I take the time and sit with them to help them delegate because perhaps they need to learn that skill — and through osmosis, it can be more impactful.
So when it comes to choosing what to delegate, you can assume almost everything in your job can be delegated. Rather than making too many rules about what to delegate, just try. I believe you are better off trying to delegate and failing than not delegating at all.
Rule 2: If something is on your to-do list for too long, delegate.
Now, we need to address the things that you have not gotten to. If it was important and urgent, you would move mountains to make time for it, but if you haven’t dedicated time and energy within the time period you provisioned, it’s probably time to delegate.
I know you may be justifying by saying:
- The other person isn’t as qualified as you. This might be true, but you aren’t helping them resolve this issue by not giving them the task.
- They won’t do it as well as you would. Sure, but even if they don’t do a perfect job, it would still be better than if the task doesn’t move at all.
- It was your idea, and you’re attached to it. It’s great that you care, but you may need to let go of some control and see what other people can bring to your idea.
- You’ll get to it. This is also a nice idea, but you probably won’t — and if you promised to do it, you could look unprofessional.
- You don’t have time to brief “person x” properly. Go back to Rule 1, because “spending 10 minutes today can save you 10 hours tomorrow.”
Guess what? These justifications only keep you from moving forward. If you have hired smart, talented people who can achieve amazing things with the guidance and space to do so, why not give them the chance?
I recommend considering that if you have not, do not or will not make the time, you have two options:
- Remove the task from your to-do list, as it is likely not important when compared to other work.
Rule 3: If you delegate, you should validate.
It might sound like common sense, but once you delegate your to-do list, I’ve found that it’s important to have the right amount of check gates — typically more at the beginning and end of a project when guidance can be more valuable. You will also notice that the more you delegate the same task, the faster the osmosis occurs.
If I need someone to send an email on behalf of the company, I will ask them to draft it, and then I’ll check it before they send it. This is a simple check gate. After a couple of emails like this, the person will naturally become comfortable and write to the standard you’ve taught them. Generally, you can go from many check gates to very few or none.
At my company, we say “fail quickly and forward,” which means we need to check in early and often and ensure we learn from any failure, small or big, to avoid repeating the same errors or issues. Check gates allow you to monitor and avert large failures that could have been prevented.
Read the article on Forbes here.