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What should you delegate?

posted on Aug 28, 2017
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According to Stanford University, 72% of chief executives need to improve their delegation skills. [1] Delegation is one of the hardest things for a leader to do, even though it can be a win-win for everyone when it is done well. To learn more about how to delegate well, read our previous blog post on the topic. This post will look at what types of tasks to delegate.

Consider Opportunity Cost

Often, most of us think of the amount of time required to delegate a task compared with the amount of time it would take us to just do it ourselves. It is true that you can probably complete most tasks more quickly than a subordinate, but that isn’t really the most relevant thing. Instead of thinking about the time differential between yourself and others, think of the opportunity cost. The hour you spend training a staff member on a process could give you three extra hours to spend on a higher-value project which only you can do.

The Six T’s of Delegation [2]

Delegate tasks which fall under one or more of these categories:

Tiny

Examples of tiny tasks include: registering for a conference or event, adding it to your calendar, booking the flight, finding a hotel, etc. Small tasks are tempting to do because that time differential can be so significant, and also because we all want small wins. That high-value project is likely to lead to a hard-to-measure outcome, far in the future.

Resist the temptation! Tiny tasks add up. Not only do they take time to complete, however little, they take you out of the flow of more strategic work. Someone else can spend time on hold with the hotel.

Tedious

Simple, straightforward tasks can easily be done by someone else. Examples include checking through your website to make sure all the links are still active, or updating the logo on a presentation deck.

Time-consuming

Some tasks are important and even a bit complex, but really don’t need your input for the entire task. An example could be developing a competitive pricing structure for your organization’s services. Someone else can do the research, discuss the findings with you, and develop a draft pricing structure for you to modify and approve.

Terrible At

Leadership is a complex business; we all need to play to our strengths. If there is something you do not do well, no matter how hard you try, or if something takes you far longer to do than one of your colleagues, then don’t do it! An example might be developing an Excel spreadsheet to conduct scenario analysis of the upcoming year’s finances, or taking care of the visual design of a PowerPoint presentation to a potential funder.

Teachable

Ultimately, we leaders are responsible to develop our teams. That means giving them the opportunities, with guidance, to do work of increasing levels of challenge. You still need to provide quality checks and final approval, but you could delegate the research, initial drafts, maybe parts of a presentation. As your team’s skill levels increase, you’ll find you can delegate more and more of these types of tasks.

Time-Sensitive

In the end, there is a finite number of hours in each day, and much more time you could spend taking care of everything you want to get done. Even if a task is highly important and time-sensitive, if it competes with another, important and urgent task, you may need help to get them both done. Perhaps you could divide each task into components which fit some of the other six T’s, and delegate those components.

To learn more about this essential leadership skill, come to our upcoming workshop.

Click here to register Wednesday, September 20, 2017. 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

[1] K. McAuliffe, "The Art of Delegating: What and How to Delegate to Your Directs," Zapier.com, 6 July 2017. [Online]. Available: https://zapier.com/blog/how-to-delegate/. [Accessed 14 August 2017]. | [2] J. Blake, "Harvard Business Review," How to Decide Which Tasks to Delegate, 26 July 2017. [Online]. Available: https://hbr.org/2017/07/how-to-decide-which-tasks-to-delegate. [Accessed 14 August 2017].
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