When the tasks are not so simple . . .
For a lot of small business owners the problem in delegating is that there isn’t a simple list they can hand to someone. Even their Low Pleasure/Low Skill tasks seem to be things they can’t pull out of their head to hand over to someone else.
This is where having a trusted and highly skilled assistant plays a very important role. Sometimes the job of a good assistant is much like fishing. Through discussions with you about your frustrations, stumbling blocks, successes and day to day routines, your assistant will be able to pluck out of the stream all the fish that she can take care of for you.
Some things you might want to consider prior to meeting with your assistant are:
1. What are the tasks that take me forever and that cause me frustration?
2. What distracts me?
3. If I never had to do _____________ again how would I feel?
4. I know I can’t delegate ___________ task; because __________________.
Questions 1 and 4 in particular might prove to be incredibly useful. Your assistant may not have immediate answers but you might be surprised to find that where you see a wall she is holding on to the door knob.
When the tasks are simple and a list will do, there is still an art to ensuring delegating success.
- Ensure the person to whom you intend to delegate has the skill set and aptitude to complete the task(s) with success.
- Review the task(s) with the person. The two key items to cover here are important details and how the task fits into the big picture. Knowing how the small piece fits within the big picture will empower the person to whom you are delegating to make decisions and troubleshoot without running back to you at every twist in the road.
- Be clear on deadlines and how often you expect status updates.
- Be clear on what “finished” looks like.
- If this is the first time you’ve delegated this task, or to this person, suggest mid-point check-in to ensure that the task is on track in the direction you want it going.
- When the task is complete review how it went. Ask the person you delegated to for feedback.
- Make sure to recognize the person who has done the task and give them credit it will foster good relations and a desire to constantly improve.
As a final note, remember that sometimes mistakes happen. It’s ok to be upset, but unless you intend to end your relationship with the person you have delegated to, take a moment before reacting. Once a mistake has happened, it’s happened, stating that it’s happened multiple times will not make it go away. Instead look to the person to whom you’ve delegated for a solution. In our experience, the most important indicator of a lesson learned versus sloppiness is whether someone will take responsibility and is able to provide solutions to the problem.
Effective delegation is much more than handing someone a shopping list of tasks and it often requires some time on the front-end to ensure long-term success.
Ensuring that you’re handing off the right pieces of your business can be assisted with the following exercise. On a piece of paper daw two perpendicular lines forming 4 quadrants (think of a “t”). On the horizontal line write “low skill” on the left and “high skill” on the right. On the vertical line write “high pleasure” on the top and “low pleasure” on the bottom.
Take 10 minutes to brainstorm and write down all the pieces of your business in the appropriate quadrants. Example: filing-low skill/low pleasure.
Those items that fall into low pleasure low skill will be the first you want to delegate; followed by low pleasure high skill, and high pleasure low skill, I’m sure you get the idea.
One concern raised by many business owners is that they feel uncomfortable delegating low pleasure tasks “it seems unfair to ask someone to do something I don’t want to do” but don’t forget everyone has different strengths. Chances are very high that something you can’t stand doing is someone else’s strength.
I like to call your low skill low pleasure items the “low-hanging fruit of delegation.” Think of the people that are either already on your team or who might want to bring on to your team who can handle these tasks for you. An Executive Support Consultant can likely take on all or most of these tasks for you; but more importantly she can likely help you set up the system to ensure this is a seamless process going forward and better enable you to tackle the next level of delegation.