When I say “delegation” do you shudder? Do you think of all the times that you gave someone a task and ended up doing it yourself or re-doing it? Have you mastered delegation and the word brings peace of mind? Do you think of an amazing assistant or employee that you trust implicitly?
I’ve delegated a lot of responsibilities and have have felt all of the above. Peace and trust to panic and stress. I sat in a church meeting a couple of weeks ago and the topic was “Delegation”. It was so fantastic I wanted to share with you some of the tips that were shared and how I use them running my businesses.
These tips were shared by my friend Greg Danklef who quoted them from Lee Perry, a professor of Organizational Leadership & Strategy at BYU. He shares 7 tips for mastering delegation (with my two cents [and then some] sprinkled in):
1. Decide what you want to delegate – Simple, right? For some of us we don’t even know where to start. I always use the philosophy that every task in your business needs to be done by the lowest possible position something I learned from the book the One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. I used to do everything because I was a one-woman show (I still am but have one assistant + use contractors on a regular basis). Now, I delegate and outsource sorting my catalogs (get about 15 a week on average), mailing out catalogs, and other admin tasks. What can you delegate, even on a short-term basis that would open the doors to more creative time that you CAN’T outsource?
2. Decide whom to delegate to – We had an interesting discussion around this. We talked about balancing people’s talents and also their needs to grow. If you run a company with a handful of employees growth is an important part of your business. Though it takes more time to teach something new, employees who are given the opportunity to grow and succeed feel greater satisfaction with their work and try to work harder for advancement, etc. But sometimes you also have to give jobs where the talent lies. It’s a delicate balance. When I’m delegating cataloging tasks, I can often give those jobs to neighborhood kids earning money for who knows what. Other tasks like helping me find press contacts and following up on quotes take more time, training and talent and go to my assistant.
3. Make assignments clearly and specifically – This is where you answer WHO is doing WHAT by WHEN. Take as much time as you need to ensure that the task is understood and answer any questions. To this I would add, get buy-off from the delegated party that they can commit to the task, understand what needs to be done and that they also commit to the deadline. This will give them structure and give you peace. I also tell my assistants and contractors that I’m open if they have any questions during the process. I don’t expect people to answer their own questions if they get stuck in the middle.
4. Assign an objective and not a procedure – This is where I start to shudder and certainly the place where I need to do a little work. I often assign a procedure taking the “It’s my company” philosophy and hope that my assistants and contractors will understand. Most do, and I do it with a great deal of charisma, but still. (Insert smiley face) I have found that when I do share the task, but also share the vision of the project as a whole they buy-off a little better and their work is above average. If I assign a task, I get just that. No passion or opportunity for having it better than I asked for, either. But that leads us to:
5. Allow autonomy – Give them space, don’t sit over their shoulder while they do it. Trust them to feel the vision of the task and give them the opportunity to work their way and knock your socks off. Besides, if you have to sit with them, why are you delegating it in the first place? The idea is to free up your time! And, they may get from A-Z a little differently, but as long as they get there, it’s okay! (Now, I know there are some tasks that require a specific process, but if the project allows, give them
6. Monitor performance and require reporting - I have also found as I have implemented these things over the past few weeks, I’ve started to give more autonomy, but I’m also giving more direction and saying things like, “After you’ve done X, lets look at it together and see what needs to happen next.” This makes it clear to them that they need to check back in the middle of projects and also that I’m going to review and provide feedback on ways to improve mid-stream instead of being angry at the end when a lot of time has been spent. They’re more open to my comments when I warn them before they start that I’m going to have them report in the middle of the project or at certain checkpoints. And I think it gives them an opportunity to ask questions at a set time in the middle, instead of feeling too scared to ask, if that’s an issue for them. This tip has been really helpful!
7. Give credit not blame – Praise the successes and the victories but don’t throw them under the bus if it doesn’t go as you would have liked. Be the coach, be the person who trains them and works with them through the process that wants them to succeed! And give them another chance on another task that may fit their talents and provide a benefit for you, if that one didn’t work out.
In just a few short weeks, I’ve seen how following this process has really helped in getting back quality work from those I delegate to and I’m loving the extra time it gives me and that it makes me feel like I can delegate more! Do you have any other tips for delegation that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!
Michelle McCullough is the business development director for Startup Princess and handles Startup Princess partnerships and events. Michelle is an author, speaker and entrepreneur. Before Startup Princess, Michelle has spent the last 12 years working in marketing and advertising. She’s worked in all aspects of the industry from production to creative and sales to management. On top of her full-time jobs, Michelle has cultivated her love for entrepreneurship by running a successful business, Doodads, a promotional products company. Michelle and her husband are the parents of two children ages 3 and 1, and live in Utah.