Simple Steps to Effective Delegation
Dealing with too many tasks? Too much stress? A long to-do list is a common problem for owners of creative agencies.
Your cluttered desk filled with unfinished work, inbox with thousands of unread emails, and task manager full of overdue items is taking up too much mental space! It’s distracting. Then you start to procrastinate, lose focus, your productivity drops, stress increases. You’re spiraling into business owner burnout.
It’s time to take back control of your work! The one thing that you can do to ensure that you have the time and energy to complete your tasks is to get on top of your to-do list. How to do this is no secret, but it can be difficult. The answer is to delegate responsibility more often.
Why is it so difficult to delegate? You need to build an effective delegation process.
Are you having trouble finishing your to-do list every day?
Task management has been a critical component of modern life since the advent of time-management systems and to-do list apps. Progressively, the tools and methods have become more sophisticated and user-friendly to increase personal productivity.
With these new technologies comes an increasing sense of pressure from feeling overwhelmed by everything on your task list.
Why can’t business owners ever complete their to-do list?
Data from the I Done This team tracking platform shows that 41% of a to-do list is never completed. Look at your to-do list right now. How many of those tasks have been sitting on that list for more than a week? Which of those tasks can you tell right now aren’t going to get done?
The “I done this” report goes further: 78% of completed tasks are done within a day (and almost half of these are done within the first hour).
All those tasks sitting on your to-do list mean you are letting someone down—either yourself or your team.
The reason? Whatever the underlying cause (a lack of trust in your team, or the sense of satisfaction you get from completing the work yourself, perhaps), your to-do list is controlling you because you aren’t delegating all you must.
Consequently, you find yourself constantly fighting a losing battle. At the end of the day, you feel your to-do list is longer than when you started. Your confidence is shot, and the amount of time you spend trying to tick off each task on your list is burning you out.
Delegation is the key to freeing yourself from your task list
Your role as a business owner is to lead, manage, and grow your agency. To accomplish this, you need to be able to prioritize your important tasks and delegate work. Take another look at your to-do list. Of each task on your list right now, ask:
- Is this task crucial to me?
- Is this going to help me get to where I want to go?
- Am I the only one who can do this?
If the answer to these three questions is ‘no,’ then the task should become an assigned task for a team member.
How do you start delegating?
Delegation is a skill set that you can learn. It involves trusting and empowering your people. This can be challenging, especially if you haven’t handed over important tasks before.
What if the employee you assign the task to doesn’t cut the mustard? This will give you a decision to make. Do you let them go, or do you remember when you didn’t know all you do now and someone helped you to learn?
Don’t view a delegation failure as wasted time. It provides the evidence you need to improve your current team by hiring better or coaching better.
Tips to empower your delegation skills
When you start delegating tasks, start by considering what things are usually on your to-do list. Then:
- Select a task on this master list that meets the delegation criteria, as we discussed above
- Assign responsibility for the task to an appropriate employee (think who, not how)
- Move the task to an assigned tasks list.
Why do you think who, not how? Because one of the keys to delegating effectively is making your team members feel empowered and in control:
- Trust that they will be able to do the task
- Explain what the task is and your desired outcome
- Create a done list for them to move the task to when it is completed (download my business dashboard template to help you)
To be a more effective leader, learn how to delegate
If you haven’t delegated many (or any) important tasks before, it can come as a shock to your employees that you are doing so now. They may be hesitant to accept responsibility for fear of screwing up. In my experience, treat the process a little like project management, and ask three questions of your employees when delegating.
“Is this your best work?”
Often, people expect that you will check their work before you send it to the client. All this means is that, instead of being the CEO, you are a high-priced editor. Consequently, they don’t turn in their best work because they know you will correct it. And so, the wheel keeps turning.
Break this routine. When work is handed to you ‘for your review’, ask, “Is this your best work?” If they assure you that it is, only then should you review it – and then return it for them to make the changes required. If they can’t get it right, you either need to improve your training or improve your people. But either way, you are no longer a high-priced editor.
“I don’t know; what do you think we should do?”
The day is nearing its close. A team member walks into your office, slumps into a chair, and sighs. You know what’s coming: a big problem is about to land on your desk. You listen to the tale of woe, and you agree that it is a knotty problem.
Instead of launching into problem-solving mode, respond with a simple question: “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”
You immediately hand responsibility back to where it should be — to the team member who is responsible for the task. This also allows you to hear their thought process as they talk it through. Plus, it trains the team member to think things through first and prevents them from bringing every problem to your desk.
You get them to solve the problem, but you get to see (and troubleshoot) the solution before it gets implemented. What a deal!
“What three things am I doing that you should be doing instead?”
If you’ve followed this article, you should have looked at your to-do list several times already. You’ll see that there are tasks on this list that your team should be doing. Here’s the final question that will empower your employees. Ask them, “What three things am I doing that you should be doing instead?”
Ask this regularly. At least each quarter. Better if you ask it each month. It keeps your people thinking about what they can take on. It’s also a terrific question to ask at review time. It keeps them growing and adding new skills. Best of all, it frees up your time to focus on growing your agency.
Delegate to Elevate Your Business
We are conditioned to believe that we need many tasks to be successful, but this isn’t true. You must focus on doing the right jobs – those that are most important to you will help get you to where you want to go, and which only you can do. Everything else should be delegated.
Learning how to delegate takes time. Start slowly. You’ll soon find that your delegation skills improve, and your confidence as a business leader grows.
Are you struggling with confidence? In my webinar about ‘Consistent Confidence’, I’ll show you how to cultivate your confidence to dramatically improve your firm’s financial performance! Click here to sign up.