Give Me a Hand: 7 Steps to Successful Delegation

The very real debate over the pros and cons of cloning technologies aside, there are some weeks I very much wish there was a second me running around to help with the heavy lifting of life. Can you relate? When the deadlines are looming, family commitments are piling up, sleep seems illusive, and our eating habits go to the wayside in favor of “whatever-I-can-grab-on-the-run,” many of us have that fleeting fantasy of being able to order up a clone to split the responsibilities with. Listen, you don’t need a clone. You need to learn how to delegate.

Not All Tasks Are Created Equal

First, let’s be clear: Not everything on your plate is something you can hand off. There are some tasks that require your attention. On the other hand, there are plenty of time-consuming activities that can (and should!) be delegated to someone else. Learning to recognize the difference is essential. Need a hand figuring out what to hold on to and what you can assign to someone else? Perhaps this will help: Mastering the Art of Delegation.

Not All Task-Sharers are Created Equal

If you’re going to successfully delegate, you’ve got to distribute tasks to the right person. Start by recognizing that the “right person” isn’t a constant. Your office manager can take on a lot of the day-to-day business tasks, but she may not be the right person to finesse your social media feeds. Begin by identifying the strengths, weaknesses, and preferences of your potential support team. Identify the right person for each task you’re willing to hand off.

Start Small

It can be hard trusting someone else with your business, and let’s be honest, this delegation thing isn’t just about giving someone a specific task to complete. This is giving people responsibility for your business. If you aren’t already in the habit of delegating, start small. Don’t ask your assistant to prepare the full proposal for your potential new investor. Ask him to gather information and support materials that you can later work into the document you need.

Give a Reason

Yes! You’ve identified the tasks you can hand off and the right person to help perform them. Don’t simply assign the task. Explain why you’re handing it off to this individual. I don’t mean air your laundry list of reasons why you’re overwhelmed. Tell the person you’re bringing on board why they are the right person for this task and how it might benefit them. “I think you have a solid understanding of what sets us apart in the business and I’ve been impressed with your research skills. If you can pull the data for me, I can work into it the formal proposal later in the week. I think this will be a great exercise to get you involved in this end of the business.”

Walk the Fine Line Between Clear Directions and Micromanaging

There’s a fine line between giving someone clear directions on how to complete a task and micromanaging the task. You want to make sure that the person you’re entrusting has enough information to complete the task properly. You also want to establish clear checkpoints where you can touch base to review milestones and address any issues. On the other hand, if you trust someone enough to hand off responsibility, you need to trust them enough to take on the task and do it. You must give them some leeway to do the work in a way that’s natural and comfortable for them. Set expectations, offer clear directions, and then let your team member own this task.

Provide Proper Training

Similar to the above, you want to ensure that you’re balancing the need to let people own the tasks you’ve given them with ensuring they have the proper skills and training to take on the responsibility you’ve handed over. If you’ve asked someone to make up follow-up phone calls on potential leads for the first time, it may help to offer a sample call script or offer to let them listen in on a few calls before they jump in. If you’re asking your assistant to assume responsibility for your website, be ready to offer training to ensure she has the technical skills needed to keep the site up and running as it should be.

Provide Feedback

Once the task is complete, offer constructive feedback. If there are things that you’d have done differently – and those are things that are deeper than a matter of personal preference about process – let your team member know. If the person who took on your delegated tasks went above and beyond, acknowledge it. Above all, say thank you. Whether you’re a leader bringing a new team member up to speed, or you’ve tagged someone to take on a one-off project, take the time to express your gratitude for their assistance.