How To Delegate Effectively

How To Delegate Effectively

The Problem: You do not have time to do everything that you need to do, but it feels like it is easier to do it all yourself than to trust anyone else with the tasks. So you’re stuck.

The Solution: You actually aren’t stuck. Your solution lies in finding the right strategies for delegation. You need to be delegating the right task to the right person with the right guidelines.

The Strategy:

  1. The Right Task: There are plenty of things that you are uniquely suited to do. There are plenty of things that only you can do with your particular flair and pizzazz. Those are not the things you should be degating. As wonderful as you may be, there are  some things that you are bad at. Or rather, to have a growth mindset, let’s say that there are some things that you have not spent enough time learning how to succeed at. What are your weakness? What do you hate doing? Those are the tasks you should be seeking to delegate. Now, you may not be able to delegate all of them at once. But I bet there’s someone in your network or on your team who is uniquely suited to take on at least one of the areas of your organization that you do less well than you would like. Too many leaders choose the wrong task to pass off. It may be that they feel guilty passing off the “busy work,” so they delegate what they perceive as fun. But people are unique. The person you are giving your “busy work” to might happen to perceive those tasks as fun and engaging. (And the tasks you see as pleasurable could be the bane of their existence). So take the time to evaluate your skills and the skills of your team as you decide what to collaborate on.

  2. The Right Person: There are plenty of people around you who are interested in things that bore you or frustrate you. Once you decide which tasks you are going to delegate, you should not just pawn them off on any person willing to help you. Too many leaders get so excited about having any help at all that they trust tasks to individuals who are not suited to manage them. For example, if you need to delegate email communications, your intern who is studying mathematics with a focus on data analytics may not be the right person for that task. Delegate tasks to people who are uniquely suited to do them.  Delegate tasks to people who have ownership and mastery of their field. This does not have to mean that you only delegate to experts or high level professionals. There are plenty of up and coming entrepreneurs, students, and other community members who are amazing at SOMETHING and just need the chance to prove themselves.

  3. The Right Guidelines:  Too many leaders wait around for a “magic” person to come and take on their responsibilities. They have this idealized image of “someone to help them.” This person will know what needs to be done, know how to do it, and start doing it without any prompting or explaination. Now, those “magic” people do exist. There are spectacular people who “just get it” and who can intuitively understand and diagnose company needs without much training. However, if you do not give proper leadership to these “magic people,” they will leave you. There are plenty of other companies looking for people with that level of intelligence and motivation. You need to be the company that communicates so well that those people become loyal to you because they crave the positive workspace that your leadership style creates.  Even when you are delegating the right tasks to the right person, you need to take ownership of your role as leader and give clear direction. Communicate your expectations for timeline, style, and team involvement. How long should the project take? What are the visual, verbal, and other stylistic guidelines that the project should conform to? Who else should be working on the project and in what context should they be collaborating? Be clear about guidelines and you will keep those "magic" leaders around. 

The Example: 

Earlier this month I gathered the cast of my theatre company Isabel & the Runaway Train together to take some promotional photos. I delegated the task of photographing the cast to my photographer friend. It was the right task for me to give away (I am not uniquely suited to be a photographer) and she was the right person to take on the task (she studied photography in school). Before the photoshoot session started, I took her aside and said:

“Hey! The musical is a comedy that deals with serious subjects in a sensitive way, and I have found that it is easier to communicate the fun tone of the show visually than it is to communicate it verbally. So, not to micromanage you and all, but I want the photos to feel candid and show the actors laughing or smiling and they shouldn't all be directly looking at the camera.”

Her response?

 “That’s not micromanaging. That’s telling your photographer exactly what you want.”

Action Steps: Take ten minutes to reflect on your delegation habits. Are you waiting for a "magic" person to come and take responsibility for a project that will always be yours? What specific task are you looking to outsource? What are the specific tasks that the team members you already have are uniquely suited to do. And what are the guidelines you can provide to help those team members successfully complete the projects you assign? With a little reflection and a lot of love, you CAN effectively lead your team and create space in your own work schedule to prioritize what you are uniquely suited to do. 

So that’s my advice.

I hope it helps.

And by the way, the cast photos turned out GREAT! 

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