Today we are going to be talking about delegation. That dirty D word that so many leaders loath. We're gonna talk about why we resist it, why we should do it, and how we do it. Delegation is one of the most important things that I have learned and had to, time and time again, relearn throughout my leadership journey.
So first let's talk about why we resist delegating.
The #1 reason that people don't delegate is because they think they're going to lose time by doing so. They believe that having to teach someone to do something they've already been doing is a waste of time, that they'll lose those hours, and that they can just do it faster themselves. I've been there, I get that. At the beginning of this pandemic, I was working in an operations center and
instead of asking for help, I allowed myself to get so overwhelmed and worn down by doing every single menial, analytical task for the entire operation that it wore me the fuck out. I was stressed out at work and at home, I was snapping at my husband, at my kid. I was not a pleasant person to be around because I thought that I had to do everything myself I thought that asking for help in having to teach somebody else how to do it. How to do this thing that I'd been doing for weeks... would make me lose time that I could just do it faster if I did it myself. I finally broke down not after weeks, unfortunately, not after days but after a couple of months and got some help and I am so much happier right now. I even found time to go on vacation because I was able to teach those tasks and delegate them down. So now I am working on higher-level analytics instead of spending the time during the day-to-day stuff.
Another reason people don't delegate is because they think they're going to lose control. Let me say this about control, you can either have control of your organization or you can have growth. You cannot have both. If you are holding so tight to the reins of everything you are trying to do you are not giving your organization the people in that organization a chance to breathe or grow or be innovative. Let go of the control and one way to do that is by simply delegating tasks that you don't need as the leader of your organization to be doing. Maybe you're afraid of not getting credit… and if that is you, please let this be your wakeup call. You shouldn't be getting credit for everything that your organization does in the first place, that's piss poor leadership. You as a leader, when you get praise, should be pushing that down to the people who are actually doing the work and that person shouldn't be you. Leaders take responsibility and they own that responsibility. Good leaders pass on the praise. Maybe there's a lack of trust in your organization and that's why you choose not to delegate. If that's the problem and you don't trust the people who you have hired or who work with or work for you.. if you don't trust them, that is a problem for you to solve. Either you need to learn how to trust them and you're not going to get to trust them unless you allow them to do things and move forward, or you need to put on your big girl pants and you need to have that conversation and you need to let that person go if they have shown that they are not worthy of your trust.
Here's a good example, so I am a huge Taylor Swift fan... to the point right my bachelorette party started with a Taylor Swift concert, it was a whole thing. But Taylor Swift has the same twenty-four hours in a day as you do, and as I do. It seems to me like Taylor swift gets a shit ton more done than I do because she has people. She delegates tasks, she writes her music, she plays her music. She doesn't worry about all of the other tasks associated with building her brand and her empire, she has people to do that for her. Those are things that she delegates down and I would be willing to bet that Taylor swift also understands that you can't do it all and do it all better thinking that you are going to just multitask
because multitasking is a lie. That's right I said it, multi-tasking is a lie. So many people and specifically women pride themselves on our ability to multitask. It was on my resume at one point “I'm really good at multitasking”. There have been actual psychological research recently that has shown that when you multitask you're actually splitting your attention and it takes more energy to switch back and forth between the two or sometimes three or however many tasks that you're doing and using that energy to switch back and forth between those tasks (because your brain can actually only focus on one at a time) inhibits critical and creative thinking and in those inhibitions, it actually makes you twenty percent less productive than you would be if you just focused on one single task. So why don't we delegate? because we think we can multitask, or because we think we don't know how. Again this was me, I used to never delegate because I am the type of leader that would never ask my people to do something that I can't do or that I haven't done and that's all well and good but I have learned that I can try it, I can figure it out, I can know how to do it... but I can still delegate things that are not within my strengths. So these are reasons why we don't delegate. We think we'll lose time + control, we won't get credit, there's no trust, “I think I can do it better” and I just simply don't know how to delegate because I've never done it. I've never had to I've always thought that I can multi-task and do it myself. These are all really plausible and seemingly good reasons not to delegate, not to give someone else the responsibility of something or to give them the task or the authority to do something else but here are reasons why you should.
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Why you SHOULD delegate
You're actually going to gain time back. After you teach someone, yes, there is that initial investment of time. You're going to have to teach someone how to do that task, you're gonna have to teach them how to do it right and how to do it to standard. But after that, if that task took you say fifteen minutes a day, maybe it takes you thirty minutes or even an hour to teach someone else how to do that. So in one week's time you've already made back your time. In two-three weeks time, a month, a year... think of how much time you as a leader now have back to work on leadership top-level priorities because you're able to give that one task away that takes fifteen minutes to do. Somebody else can do that.
Delegating is also going to help your organization grow, and it is going to foster a spirit of innovation. When you are giving people the authority to do things that they wouldn't have gotten to do otherwise, you're giving them the ability to solve problems. When people are in that habit of solving problems and they're able to innovate new creative solutions, 1. they take ownership of that. They're more invested in the solution and in the company for allowing them to have a voice in the solution and your people on the ground the ones doing the actual work are going to come up with better more creative more sensible solutions often than the leadership at the high level well because they're the ones on the ground doing it, they're the one seeing the problems they're the ones who understand the mechanisms of how everything works.
Another thing you're going to get if you start delegating is trust and cohesion. They're going to buy into what they're doing if they're actually doing it. Instead of you doing something and them doing menial tasks. That's going to foster an environment of teamwork, good morale, unity, and cohesion. Especially in these times that we're in right now who couldn't use more teamwork and cohesion. Another reason that we should delegate is because while we may think that we can do it better, that's not true. There is always, no matter what position you are in or what you think, there is always going to be someone who can do it better than you. Being a leader is being able to work within your strengths. It's being able to understand the strengths of the people that work with and for you, and if you play to those strengths you work within yours and you assign tasks to other people that have other strengths. They are going to be better at that. It is going to seem easier for them than it is for you. It is going to be more fun for them than it is for you. It's just going to quite simply be easier. Life will be easier if you play to your strengths. That doesn't mean you ignore your weaknesses and don't try to be better in those areas of life, but if you can re-adjust your focus you're going to have a better more well-rounded team if you have people with different strengths.
How do we actually delegate?
You might think it's as simple as saying “Hey go do this, go get me coffee”... technically yes, asking someone to go get your coffee is delegating a task and saving you time, but it is not going to foster growth or innovation. It sure as hell isn't going to foster trust or any sort of camaraderie or cohesion. Maybe someone else can order your coffee better but that seems like a you problem. That shouldn't be the focus of your job, of what you're doing as a leader.
So how do we actually delegate? There's a really good article by Harvard Business Review that talks about how we delegate. Harvard says there are seven steps to doing it, and the first is knowing WHAT to delegate. It's not it's not the “go get me coffee” it's not necessarily the big projects either. Knowing what to delegate is important, making sure that it is something meaningful and that it's not just a task. We can delegate two things... We can delegate tasks (which are just jobs) and we can delegate authority, the ability to progress and the ability to make
meaningful change. You have to have to know what to delegate. One way that I do this and I've done this for several years now at the beginning of my week I sit down with my calendar, I put in all my appointments, I do I do my time blocking, but when I'm trying to figure out all of the things that I have to get done throughout the week I do a brain dump list. If you are not familiar with a brain dump list, let me explain. I take a piece of paper and I literally write down every single thing that I have to do throughout the week. That's it, super simple. Literally dump everything from my brain on the paper. Then I look at it and I go “okay, what can my nanny do? What can my husband do? What can I delegate away so that I don't have to do it?” and then I'm left with a list of things that are important and that only I can do. What this has done for me is it has allowed me to clear time in my schedule to do what I'm good at, to play in my strength and since I'm not doing all those other things I'm not the one loading and unloading the dishwasher most of the time. I'm not the one doing my kiddos laundry, most of the time. because I have a wonderful amazing nanny and friend who's basically like family now who can help me out with those tasks so that I have more time to do things like this podcast and play in my creative space. Know what to delegate, make your dump list to figure out what only you can do, push the rest away by finding somebody who can help you with it. If you don't know somebody or don't have somebody on your team who can help you with it, maybe you think about hiring a new position to help you with certain areas of your business. Which brings us to the next point…
Harvard says you need to play to your strengths, and play to the strength of your people as well. If someone's main strength is analytics, we don't want to delegate creative tasks to them necessarily. Put them on the team, help them grow, help them work on what they might consider a weakness, but played a people's strengths. It's going to make them happier, it's like I said before, just gonna make life easier if you're playing to strengths.
You have to define your desired outcome.
In the army we call this mission command, we are defining the end state. This is the ultimate goal of what I want to have happen. If you give a desired outcome, you provide that purpose, that direction, and let your people play to their strengths and go solve the problem. Along with defining that desired outcome you also need to provide them with a couple of other things. 1. the resources they need and 2. the authority that that problem requires. We talk about delegating both tasks and authority, we need to make sure that we are allowing them what they need as far as not just resources, so making sure that they have all of the things available they need, but making sure that they have that authority and that confidence to be able to carry out whatever it is you're asking them to do. To solve that problem. As we're working on these projects as our people are working on these tasks and missions that they have delegated to them, trying to solve these problems, we have to be sure to establish clear communication channels. And this goes both ways and they should not just be you saying “what are you working on”. Communication is a two way street and if you are not using it as such, you are using communication wrong. You are then talking at someone instead of having a conversation. Having this this clear communication will help to course correct, if course correction is necessary. It'll provide an ability to check in, it allows you to get to know your people, make sure that you're delegating the right problem sets to the right people... and it just makes for an all around better organization.
Two more things that Harvard Business Review says you need to do in order to delegate. These two kind of go hand in hand.
1. Allow for failure.
I understand that this is scary and that as a business owner or as a leader you don't want to fail. Nobody ever wants to fail, but unless it is a life or death situation failure is the number one way that people can learn. You can absolutely learn from failure, and so long as nobody's getting hurt and it doesn't put your business completely under learning from failure is a good thing. People are going to take those lessons to heart, they're not going to make those mistakes again. They're going to learn maybe a hundred ways that it didn't work. Edison created a thousand things before he actually got the light bulb to work, that is the kind of failure that we should be allowing and quite honestly we should be encouraging.
2. On the flip side of that we need to give credit where credit is due.
This goes back to good leaders take responsibility and they pass on praise, so if you give a problem set to a team or to an individual you delegate that authority to solve that problem and they do a really freaking good job and came up with some innovative solution that you never could have come up with in a thousand years. You need to find a way to recognize those team members for their work. It doesn't have to be a fancy car or Rolex or anything expensive. A lot of times it's just at the next company meeting saying “Hey and this is how we're going to do this from now on, congrats to Sophia for being the one who came up with the solution do you want to tell us a little bit about how you went about doing this”. Giving them that spotlight, allowing them to to take the credit and to be the one who has their name on the thing. As a leader, that doesn't need to be you and it shouldn't be you. Doing this is going to foster a sense of camaraderie of cohesion and it's going to make people want to work for you when you are willing to recognize the work that people do and that is one of the most coveted attributes that a leader can have is that people love to and want to work for them.
So quick down and dirty right on delegation on why we don't do it, why we should do it, how to do it and how to do it properly. If you follow the steps I promise you you're going to have more time, growth, trust and peace in your organization and in your leadership abilities. Who doesn't want that.
I hope that you take the steps and have found something that is going to be useful for you and you can put it into practice. I would love to hear over on social media how you do put this into practice and how you are now delegating tasks, whether it's in your business or in your home, I would love to hear your take away from this post.
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