Everyone knows they should delegate more, but it’s a difficult skill to master. I don’t mean intellectually; everyone gets the reasoning behind delegation. However, in practice, very few business owners find that it comes easily to them.
If that’s you, don’t despair.
Why don’t we let go of more jobs?
There are a few potential blockages:
1. You have the wrong support in place
The first blockage is a real one. If you don’t have the right support team in place you’ll never delegate successfully, because the work will keep bouncing back onto your desk.
Here’s the test that I use when I think about the team. When I hand off a task I’m looking for the person that can not only do the task itself but thinks of an extra thing or two that I didn’t even know needed to be done. They know these extras because they’re experts in the role they’re performing.
If you don’t have the right support in place then your first job is to get that sorted out.
“Oh, but I hate recruiting and training staff!” I hear some people saying.
Then the first person I’d add to your team is an external HR resource that can help you with this stuff. There you go. That’s your first bit of delegation. External HR people are not expensive and they can add loads of value. If you’re a smaller firm (even a one-or two-person show) then you’ll hardly ever use your HR person, but when you do they’ll be a huge help. If you’re a larger firm then you really need someone on board to assist with good HR practice and people management.
2. You believe you can do it best yourself
This second blockage is not real; it’s all in your head. Assuming, of course, that you have the right team on board.
As someone said to me many years ago: If the person you’re handing off to can do it 80% as well as you, then let it go. If you want to stay stuck in the land of “Only I can do this job to the standard” then you will forever remain small. If you’ve got good people in place then let them take on some responsibility. Describe the outcome you’re looking for and then let them sort it out their way.
3. You don’t have time to delegate
That feeling of not having time seems like a genuine excuse, but it’s not. We know it’s not because we find ourselves doing the task, again and again, all the while thinking, “If I’d just taken the time to delegate this task the last five times I’ve done it, I wouldn’t be doing it now.”
Delegation is fun (no really, it is)
I saw this great tip from Michael Kitces:
“For me, the “breakthrough” in how to delegate effectively came from using screencasting software – tools that record what’s happening on your computer screen, paired with the audio of you talking while you’re sitting in front of it. The end result – in the time it takes me to actually do the task, I can create an entire “how-to” video tutorial for whoever I wish to delegate the task to in the future… and by recording it, I’ve acted once and created a guide that can be referenced again and again as necessary for whoever will be doing the task in the future!
In fact, creating videos of the tasks you delegate can be done so quickly and easily that you may ultimately find yourself forming an entire video library of the key “processes and procedures” of your business… where all you have to do is just do the task you’ve long done already, but record it and then delegate it for good! So if you have trouble delegating, you might want to check out screencasting as a very practical solution!”
(You can check out Michael’s whole piece on delegation here.)
Where do you start?
In my consulting work, one of the first things I try to get owners and advisers to delegate is their emails. However, whenever I suggest it you should be a fly on the wall and hear the screaming; it’s incredible.
Let’s be totally honest. You don’t need to handle your own emails. Get someone else to screen them and then speak with you once a day (via telephone, Skype, or face to face if they work in your office) about the emails that are important.
Here’s what will happen:
- You’ll stop spending way too much time on this low-value task. The verbal update from your email screener will take ten minutes. Sorting them yourself can take over an hour per day. Not only that but checking your emails often distracts you throughout the day from other genuinely important tasks that you should be working on.
- Anything that you need to respond to personally will be identified and you can then respond.
- Emails that don’t require a response will be related to you verbally and you will know the information, without having to spend time reading everything. For example, a client writes back to thank you for something you’ve responded to recently. It’s good to know that and you can make a mental note, but it doesn’t need you reading and replying one more time.
- Your “email screener” will very quickly work out what’s important and what’s not. If they are unsure they’ll ask.
Some advisers worry this could be seen as impersonal (because they’re the magic, right?). No, it won’t be seen as impersonal. It will seem appropriate and professional. You’re a successful busy expert and your clients know this. My doctor doesn’t write and send her own emails to me and I don’t think any less of her. Quite the opposite.
Calling in other experts
Don’t just flick this task on to some poor soul that works for you. Identify who has the skills to really own this job.
In one firm I worked with they decided that no one on the paraplanning or admin team should do this job because they are great paraplanners and administrators and are already very busy. So they rent a Virtual Assistant by the hour who performs the task remotely. Brilliant.
If you do have a PA internally who can do it, then great. Otherwise, go and rent someone. The outsourced option works very well for some of the jobs that you want to delegate because you can hire a specialist and only pay for the time they use. This doesn’t add much to your cost base (not like adding a full-time person does) and often frees up other members of your team to focus on what they’re best at (administration, paraplanning, advising etc). That lets you get even more productivity from your existing team too.
Try It Out!
Here is a simple process I first learned from Tracey Underwood at Pace Solutions.
Try the exercises below and see if you can get rid of a few more tasks:
The Delegation Exercise
Here are two exercises you can do to identify some tasks to get rid of:
1. The jobs that only you can do
- Set a timer for 3 minutes; that’s all.
- Now list the jobs that literally, ONLY you can perform within your business.
What you will find is that it’s a very short list. There might only be three jobs on there.
2. Who else could do this job?
- Re-set the timer for 5 minutes.
- List down the left-hand side of an A4 page all the jobs that you touch or get involved in during the course of running your business.
This is a much longer list.
Across the top of the page write the other job titles that exist within your business (e.g. paraplanner, administrator, office manager, receptionist, etc). If you’re a small firm there might only be one other person who is an administrator; that’s cool.
- From the list of jobs you touch, which of these could be passed off to some other person/role that already exists within your business? Move that job to that column under the other role/person.
- If you added some other job titles like Virtual Assistant (VA), Bookkeeper, HR consultant, outsourced paraplanner, IT support, etc, what else could you get rid of from your list using specialist outsourced suppliers? Move some more jobs to the columns under the other roles/people.
- What jobs are still left undelegated from your list? Are there other outsourced specialists that you could identify and use to do some of these tasks? Start Googling.
- How do other successful firms you know deal with these issues? Ask around.
Compare the list of jobs that ONLY you can do, to whatever is left on your longer list after you’ve moved a few to other people on your team or some outsourced suppliers. How can you get rid of these jobs that you shouldn’t really be involved in and still run an excellent business?
This very short analysis should open up a range of delegation possibilities for you.