Whether you are a YouTube creator, startup CEO or a doctor, being able to delegate effectively is one of the most important skills to free up your time and scale your work. However lots of people struggle with delegating things as they lack a repeatable process and sometimes find that relaying information to others is more time consuming than actually doing a task themselves. We're going to touch on nine key principles:
1. Know When To Delegate
According to a Gallup study, CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33 percent higher revenue. These executives know they can’t accomplish everything alone and position their team to tackle tasks they’re confident they’ll achieve—in turn empowering employees, boosting morale, and increasing productivity. In the process, CEOs free up their time to focus on activities that will yield the highest returns and grow the company, working on strategy rather than on day-to-day tasks where the focus and expertise of others is more effective.
So always start by asking yourself ‘Is this something that needs to be done by me?’ - if the answer is yes, do not delegate the task. However, as you scale the your company, team and processes there should be fewer tasks that can only be completed by one person.
2. Know What To Delegate
Having an understanding of the value of your own time is vital and don't underestimate the value of having time to think about strategy or read around a problem. Always question whether doing something is a valuable use of your time and equally are you taking away autonomy and an opportunity to learn from an employee. Ask yourself does someone else in the company have the skill set required to be able to complete this task?
If not, can the necessary skills be taught to a member of the team? If the answer is no, you will likely need to outsource the task at cost to a contractor. I used websites like People Per Hour and Upwork when building a business while training as a surgeon and once you have decided to outsource work it is vital that you have a framework for accurately relaying information, so let's look at how to do that.
3. Define The Outcome
Don't delegate anything that you don't have a good understanding of yourself. This doesn't mean you need to be an expert at web development if you want to outsource website creation but it does mean that you should do some research to define what you want and what is possible before delegating the work.
When relaying information make sure the expected outcome of the task is clear and easy to understand. Define in detail the standards you expect, ideally using a metric to quantify success. Before anyone starts working on a project, they should know what they need to complete and by when, including the metrics you’ll use to measure the success of their work.
4. Provide Key Information And A Template
Pull all the necessary information together to make the task as simple as possible for the delegatee to complete for example forward existing email chains, links to articles or videos and any existing research you have completed
Set the standard for ‘good’ by showing an example of how the finished task should look. This is best done using a template or using an example that you have completed yourself. For example if you want the delegatee to enter information into a spreadsheet rather than simply telling them to do so spend time creating a template and populate the first line with an example entry. This provides the delegatee with the foundation to build on and will reduce the chance of them returning work that is below the standard you expect.
A super quick way to do this is to record a narrated video (<1min) of you doing the required task so they can clearly see what you want doing and the standard that is expected.
5. Ensure Understanding
I've been burned in the past despite following the previous steps because I missed the most critical step in the process, checking understanding.
After supplying the delegatee with clear information, a defined outcome and a template rather than simply asking the delegatee whether they understand what is required test their understanding by asking them to complete the first few elements of the task and return it to you for approval early to ensure they are on the right track. This might be an early outline of a video you are outsourcing or the first ten rows of a data entry task before the delegatee is left to continue with the rest.
6. Set a Deadline and Keep Communication Open
Set a deadline for completing the task and add this to a shared calendar or productivity software such as Trello or Asana so that the delegatee can clearly see timeframes and provide updates. Ensure that you schedule regular checkins to ensure that the task is on track. Don't micro-manage the delegatee by requesting updates every day or week but set a cadence that is supportive and allows you to prevent any long term delays or issues.
7. Be Patient
In most cases the fact that you are delegating something likely means that you could do it pretty well yourself but it is time consuming and your time and focus is better used elsewhere. If you are a perfectionist like me with a high attention to detail it can be easy to get frustrated with your loss of direct control over the task when delegating. It can feel frustrating having to explain things but be patient with the delegatee and ensure they understand and are supported. Hopefully they will end up doing a much better job than you if you have delegated to someone with the appropriate skills but if they don't or they encounter an issue be kind and use it as a learning point for both you and them.
8. Allow For Failure
Even when following a framework mistakes can happen. Allowing for failure will empower your employees and give them the permission to experiment and solve problems innovatively. I try to ensure that I don't micro-manage people and instead allow employees freedom to act like mini-CEOs making decisions and overcoming challenges. I also allow them a safe place to fail and to learn from their failures so unless you want mindless drones working for you chill out and let people make mistakes.
9. Reflect and Give Credit
After the task is completed take time to go over the final product with the delegatee and allow them time to reflect on the process and whether they were happy with the finished work. Be sure to thank them and give them credit directly and also when discussing the task with others. Don't take credit for the delegatee's work, credit them appropriately and they'll want to help you again in the future.
Often taking the first step and deciding what to delegate is the hardest part of the process. To help you out I've included a link to a Delegation Tool that helps you to score tasks and decide whether you should do them or delegate them.
The Delegatee Process
If you are being delegated work, below are the questions to consider. Don't be afraid to push back if you have not been provided with the necessary information to complete a task.
- Do I understand what is being asked of me?
- Do I know what skill set is required for the task? Do I currently possess those skills? If not, how can I learn them?
- Have I been shown an example of what a good outcome looks like? Do I know what the outcome should be?
- Do I understand the deadline for the task? Has a review been set for once I have started working on the task?
How can I exceed expectations? Is the goal here to do something basic in the fastest time possible (in which case prioritise and impress for speed) or to solve a specific problem for a customer (think outside the box and add in extra features).
Examples of Good and Bad Delegation
Example 1: Bad Delegation
Tom needs to add lots of new customer information into Hubspot. There are over 1000 entries and he realises that if he did this alone it would take a significant amount of time.
He delegates to Karen by emailing her and asking her to google search customer ICPs and then enter that information into Hubspot.
Karen isn't sure of the specifics but gets started after wasting time trying to understand how to use Hubspot and what the ICP actually is.
Tom chases Karen a week later; she didn't realise it was a priority and has only entered 25 companies. When Tom looks at the data it is incorrectly formatted and needs to be completely re-done.
Example 2: Good Delegation
Problem: David needs to add lots of new customer information into Hubspot. There are over 1000 entries and he realises that if he did this alone it would take a significant amount of time.
Research: David knows that if he creates a standardised process and an excel template with an example of how the data entry should look he can outsource this either within the team or to someone outside as the actual data entry is fairly low-spec and he can then upload the template to Hubspot to save time.
Template/Process Creation: David spends 30-minutes creating an excel table with headings matching the data needed to enter into Hubspot fields. David then records a video of him searching for the the required data, copying the correct data and entering this into the fields for the first 10 entries to demonstrate what good looks like. He then creates a short 5 step written process that compliments the video.
Hand-Off/Clarification: David then sets a deadline for completion and creates an email template with the excel template, video and process and sends it to 10 people, charging them to complete 100 entries by a set deadline. He asks each delegatee for any questions and to return the template after they have entered the first 5 entries by themselves so that he can check their working and avoid errors.