Delegate, Dammit!

If you are like many managers, you have a hard time delegating tasks - at least until you are overwhelmed, at which point you may shed tasks that you should keep. You want to make sure to give your company maximum value, but how do you know which tasks should be delegated, to whom, and when?

Here's a very simple flowchart to help you figure out what should be delegated:

The who part is easy: Delegate the task to whomever has the least to do. 

This may sound self-evident, but how many times have you seen someone else assign a task to the employee who has the most going on? Even today, I bet you've seen at least one example. This is because we have a natural tendency to give tasks to the person who seems the most capable. And if they've already got that much going on and they're handling it well, they must be capable, right?

The trouble with this impulse, though, is that the employee who gets all of the tasks learns everything, while other employees languish, never able to test their wings and gain the experience necessary to become more capable. Meanwhile, the person who gets dumped on lives under constant pressure and stress. You know what happens when one employee feels like they're being passed over and another feels like they're being pissed on?

They both leave. And one of them left to go work for your competitor and took all of that knowledge they acquired with them. Now you're short at least two people, maybe more, and no one knows how to do more than the bare minimum.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. But we still do it all the time.

Yes, delegate to everyone. If you don't think they're capable of doing the work, why did you hire them? Yes, make sure that your expectations are clearly spelled out, as well as the timeline and milestones. Yes, meet regularly to assess progress. Yes, give counsel if asked, but only if asked. You may be surprised, not least by the fact that just because someone does something differently than how you would have done it doesn't make them wrong. In fact, they may find a better way than you do.

The last question is the easiest one of all: Delegate tasks soon as they are identified.

Never touch anything more than once. This includes emails, meeting notes, phone calls, and anything else that involves a task. The first time you touch it, apply the flow chart above, and then either do it yourself or delegate it, on the spot. Your inbox will empty out, you'll help all of your people grow, morale will rise, retention will improve, and your organization will get what it's paying for: Your time, doing the tasks that you alone are paid to do.

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