The Big Idea
Delegation is an opportunity to empower others.
Questions I Answer
- How can I delegate better?
- Will delegating help increase my productivity?
- How can I get my team to be more productive?
- What tasks can I delegate to my team?
Actions to Take
- Start empowering others to feel confident and motivated as a team so that you can delegate tasks more often.
Key Topics in the Show
How to empower and lead your team to work together and complete tasks.
Four main reasons why people don’t delegate tasks and how to move past those perceptions.
Solutions for combating situations when you feel like you can’t delegate.
Six kinds of tasks that are great to delegate to your team.
Strategizing the steps from start to finish for your delegations so you will see them through to the end.
Resources and Links
- Tips on Why You May Not Be Delegating:
- The belief that you don’t have enough time to delegate and teach others.
- Fear of losing control of the tasks and projects you care about.
- Not enough confidence in your team. Which in turn lets your team not have confidence in themselves.
- The need to please everyone. Some convince themselves that they can get that one last thing done and make sure everyone else is happier.
- List of the Best Tasks to Delegate:
- Automated tasks
- Teachable tasks
- Tasks others can do better
- Insignificant tasks – unimportant but urgent tasks
- Tasks that you’re not responsible for – such as cleaning your child’s room
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 37. Today we are talking all about delegating. And I felt like this was a really important topic for us to cover because we’ve been talking about systems all season long, and I wanted to end the season talking about how we can make the systems even easier to implement. I was getting a lot of questions, and I talked about this in the “Ask Tanya” episode a few weeks ago, but I was getting a lot of questions from people who were telling me they have a hard time delegating to other people or they just don’t think they can. So I wanted to talk about that today because I think you might be underestimating the value of delegation.
So, what is delegation? Well, it’s essentially assigning responsibility to someone else in order to complete a clearly defined task. Delegation incorporates empowering your teammates through effective leadership. And here’s the key: delegation can be used in any organization, so I’m going to refer to ‘team’ a lot in this episode.
What do I mean by the term ‘team’? Now, I know I’ve mentioned this before back when I talked about creating a family mission statement in episode 5, but I always refer to my family as a team because that’s what we are. We’re a group of people – big people, little people – who are all working together towards a common goal, a strong family.
So when I’m talking about teams today, your team might be your family, or it might be the group of people you work with, or it may be you and your roommate. A team is just a collection of people, so, two or more who are working together. And I want you to keep that in mind today. Delegation is not just for corporations. It’s not just for big companies. It’s for small businesses, it’s for families, it’s for co-workers, and so on. And in order to have a successful team, everyone must be flexible and open to delegation.
But why don’t people delegate? Well, there’s several reasons. First reason, not enough time. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the perception that you don’t have enough time. Having to explain the task or teach someone else the skills necessary takes time, and if you’re feeling crunched for time it feels like a luxury that you just don’t have.
But think of it this way. Yes, it may take you less time to complete the task yourself now, but where does that put you the next time the task needs to be completed? And so on. Think of it as an investment. You’re spending the time now to get somebody else to eventually perhaps take it off your plate altogether.
The second reason is losing control. This is otherwise known as the “perfectionism issue,” which we talked about just a few weeks ago in episode 28. Perfectionism keeps us often from doing our best work and it hinders us from accepting help from others. We fear that by giving the task to others they won’t be able to do the job as well as we can do it ourselves, and so we pile ourselves high with these tasks that really others can help us with.
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The third reason is no confidence in your team. When you think that no one can do it as well as you, that shows you’re not confident in your team. My motto when I was a teacher was to keep the barre high because others will rise to the task or the job. But when you don’t have confidence in your team, they end up losing confidence in their own abilities and they just might stop trying altogether. Let me give you an example.
When I’m over for dinner at anyone’s house, I generally jump up after dinner and help clean up. But I have a friend who has a very particular way of cleaning and then loading the dishwasher. I found that when I helped, she would take the dishes I had just loaded and take them all and spread them on the counter, and then she would load the dishes the right way, her way.
So after several times of this happening, I gave up. I mean, who wants to be told each time that they’re doing it all wrong? It’s the same thing with your team. If you’re nitpicking the results every time, they’re not going to want to continue to try. A gracious ‘thank you’ goes really far in instilling confidence in your team.
The fourth reason is guilt. We want to please everyone. Well, everyone but ourselves. We place ourselves at the bottom of that people-pleasing list a lot if the time, so we convince ourselves that we have time for one more thing, or that busy is good. Everyone says that they’re busy, right? So we have to stop that glorification of busy. Busy does not mean productive. It does not mean that you’re better than anyone else. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re happy. We have to do away with this desire to make sure everyone else is happy because we feel guilty.
But it’s not just the emotions that sometimes get in the way of us delegating. There are situations that can act as barriers to delegating, like resources. Money is usually a concern for most of us if we want to pay to delegate something out. I felt this myself when I decided to take on help cleaning my house.
Now there are lots of ways you can figure this out, like can you work to delegate money in other places. Think to yourself what is this task worth to you? Is it worth forgoing your daily coffee? Is it worth not eating out one day a week? Or if the budget is absolutely too tight, can you find a way to delegate some of it? For having help with cleaning the house, could you just have the kitchen and the bathrooms cleaned? Or could you share the task by delegating portions of it to other people that you live with – your family, your roommate, or your spouse – so it doesn’t cost money, it just costs time. So you have to think outside of the box sometimes.
The other situation that can be a barrier is the hierarchy. In some organizations it’s difficult to understand the line of authority and who’s responsible for what. This is true in offices and sometimes at home because multiple people may share responsibilities, so there can be some confusion or it’s unclear who has ultimate authority.
You usually see this when there’s someone on your team who’s not really willing to help out. They feel like it’s “not their job.” This issue can usually be fixed with some open communication and some discussions about the reasons why things need to happen. Now, sometimes it does take more than communication, but it’s a
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matter of finding the reasons why that person is not helping. And when you know that, it can make a big difference in getting them to pitch in.
So now that we’ve talked about some of the barriers, let’s talk about what tasks can you really delegate. Well, there’s actually a lot of tasks you can delegate. First of all, there’s those automated tasks that we talked about back in episode 34. These are the tasks that need to be done repeatedly, maybe once a week or once a month. What’s nice about delegating out automated tasks is because they’re repeated, it’s really easy to get someone else on a system and then they become really good at doing it. So automated tasks are great to delegate.
There’s also teachable tasks. These are the tasks that, although they may seem complicated at first, can translate into a system. For example, teaching one of your direct reports at the office how to draft a presentation for the monthly team meeting, and then eventually how to be the one to actually deliver those updates to the team. Those are great to have somebody else do.
Then there is tasks that others can do better. Now, you can’t be good at everything. There’s going to be things that just aren’t your strength. These are ideal to farm out to people who can do a better job than you. And because you’re working as a team, keep in mind you can’t do everything. Find the tasks you aren’t as strong at and give them to someone who is. For me, I’m not the best at photography, so if I want a really good image of something, I’ll ask Liz or I’ll ask John to do it for me. Both of them are much better photographers than me. There’s no shame at not being good at everything.
The fourth kind of task is the insignificant tasks. We talked about the levels of the priority list. Tasks that are unimportant but urgent, these are tasks that are small so they feel inconsequential to tackle, but they add up. They’re never important or urgent, and even if they only take a few minutes, they end up taking you out of the flow of your more strategic work. So these are ideal, also, to farm out and delegate.
Then there is the fifth kind of task, which is task for good development. Delegate tasks to your team members who would benefit from the additional skill development. If you’re already good at completing a certain task, let someone else have a chance to try it so they can begin to build off these skill sets as they continue to grow and be a part of your team.
Now, I’ll give you a quick example. My kids at the airport. When I travel with my kids, I delegate to them that when we de-plane and get into an airport, they have to figure out where we go next and they have to guide me through the airport to the next gate. Now, I could do this myself, and I could probably do it a lot faster because I’ve traveled a lot more. But I want to empower them; I want to feel confident that if we do get separated at the airport they’re going to know where to go next. So I think of it as an investment. And, side note, they totally think it’s fun that they are in charge of our travel plans. So definitely think about tasks that will help others to develop.
And then the last kind of task I want to talk about are the tasks for which you are not responsible. This is a really big one for parents. Are you cleaning your kids’ rooms? Are you feeding a dog that you got your child because they promised to take
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care of it? It’s time to get those jobs back in the hands of the people they’re supposed to belong to. Delegate that back out. If you find that you’re doing a lot of jobs that belong to other people, you’ve got to push back a little bit and hand them back over.
So to me, those are the six kind of tasks that are good to delegate. But how do you do it? How do you start to delegate? Well, I always know it’s hard to start with a blank sheet of paper, so I’ve got a download for you to help you figure out how to prepare to delegate. And you can find that by going to inkwellpress.com/podcast, and then go to episode 37 and you’ll see a download for you there.
So before you begin to delegate you have to lay the foundation, and that’s what that download’s going to help you do. This preparation will become easier as you begin to delegate more and more. However, until that time comes, you want to spend a little time in the following four areas before you begin to actually delegate.
So the first thing is make a list of the tasks and the teammates. Use those guidelines we just talked about to make a list of the tasks that you want to delegate, and then make a list of your teammates alongside the list of the delegation tasks, and then you can just draw a line from the task to who they should belong to. Think about who’s best suited to accomplish these tasks. And again, don’t worry, I’ve got a download that’s going to walk you through it.
Now I know that all sounds good, but how do you choose which team member to assign each task? Well, think of it in terms of skill and development. So for skill, when you’re choosing a team member to accomplish this task, you must know their skill level. And when you choose people you think are capable, give them tasks that are slightly beyond their current level. This’ll challenge them and will help them develop their skills. You can give non-critical tasks to inexperienced teammates. Or if your team is your family, this is great for younger ones. Accomplishing the task will help increase their confidence and that adds their own value to the team.
So the other thing to think about when you trying to decide who to delegate to is their development. Try to delegate tasks to the teammates that need the most development. Give them tasks that will help them grow. It might involve a challenge,
an initiative, perhaps judgment on their part. The more that you give your teammates to accomplish, the more your team as a whole will be able to accomplish. So that’s the first step, preparing for the delegation. Choosing the task and the person to delegate it to.
Then, the next step is decide your outcomes. Before you’re delegating a task to someone else you need to know your desired outcome. How important is it to you that a task is done a certain way? Or, how thoroughly do you want it done? Is it okay for them to do it any way they want to as long as it gets done? What are certain steps that you feel need to happen? You need to think about what is the outcome you are looking for with this task.
The third thing is know the supplies and the resources needed. There’s nothing that will stymie delegation faster than them not having what they need. So once you’ve decided on the task and who you want to delegate to, think about what
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supplies or resources those tasks require. For example, if you’ve assigned the task for someone to be in charge of a report in your office, what information do they need to create the report. Do they need access to a color printer? Do they need certain software programs? And so on. Anticipating these needs will help them be more successful.
And then lastly, anticipate the questions. The people on your team will most likely have questions, especially if this is the first time for them to tackle this type of task. And they may even resist the responsibility that you’re giving them. Think through what these questions or these stumbling blocks may be, and then you’re able to address them effectively when you’re actually doing the delegating.
So, one of the things that I do, is I physically write out the task, the expectations, I write out the supplies. And by doing that I’m hopefully anticipating a lot of those questions that may crop up, and I’m helping keep them accountable so that they don’t have to remember and there’s a paper trail.
So one note on this. When I was doing this with my kids before they were readers, I used images and pictures that I would just download off the internet. That way, that would help them see what I was looking for them to accomplish. And as we start implementing the actual delegation, I make sure that we both feel empowered to make adjustments to these notes.
As with all things of productivity, you need to have some flexibility. There will be things that crop up that you did not anticipate no matter how thoroughly you feel that you’ve thought it through. So make sure that you are giving a little bit of breathing room, both for them and for you. And then, it’s time to start delegating.
So, how are you going to do the actual delegation? Start by scheduling a meeting. Delegation takes time and preparation, so taking the time to discuss the task and making sure there’s time to answer questions will really help. You want to reduce the chance that something will go wrong. So if you’re delegating something, let’s say, at work, schedule a meeting with the team member. If you’re delegating something at home, this could happen at a family meeting. Just make sure you’re treating the meeting as something important. It’s not something you just want to off handedly assign to someone, so schedule a meeting.
And then start with ‘why’. Lead your conversation with pointing out why the task is important not just to you, but to your teammate, to the team as a whole, and your organization. Delegation is most effective if you can link a delegated task to your team’s goals, and that makes that team member feel like an important part of the way your team works. So start with the ‘why’.
And then, three, make sure that the outcome is explained. We talked a little bit about what your expectations for the outcomes are, but you want to make sure that you tell your teammates the results that you expect. Explain how this outcome, when it’s completed, fits into the picture of what the team as a whole is trying to achieve. And then make sure you give clear instructions. Explain the different steps for the task, especially if it’s someone who’s inexperienced. Be open, though, to discuss possible alternative ways that they could accomplish the results.
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I like to empower team members by allowing them to create their own instructions if I feel like they’re ready. I’ll ask them what steps they think they need to do to accomplish the goal. Explain your ideas, ask for comments, suggestions, and questions, but you’ll find that new ideas often emerge when you have an open discussion like this with your teammates. Plus, it has the added bonus of instilling confidence in them that you believe in them.
You want to make sure you’re encouraging questions to make sure they understand everything. With my kids, if I’m delegating to my kids, I use an old teacher trick where I ask them to explain back to me what they need to do and why they need to do it. That allows me to see the gaps in their understanding, and that’s really helpful, especially with children.
And then, assign accountability. And by that, I mean make sure they have the appropriate authority to handle the task so that way they don’t have to run every detail by you, or they’re not constantly asking for your assistance. You want them to understand their role and your expectations before they start, and part of that is really allowing them to collaborate with you on a deadline. You want to make sure you and your teammates set a deadline for the completion of this task. Collaborating on it will help them plan and will allow them to coordinate and prioritize the task for themselves.
And that’s it. The very last thing to do is let go. Remember, you have to give them a fair chance to accomplish the task. You want to check in on their progress during different checkpoints, but don’t micromanage them or get in their way. Show them that you have confidence in their success, but don’t be afraid to support them or give them feedback. And make sure to allow them the grace that they need when they make mistakes, because they will make mistakes. So help them to learn to modify and readjust.
And when things don’t go well at all, well, talk it out. See if you can see where it broke down and work together to find a solution. Just keep in mind that the solution is not to delegate it back to yourself. Systems take time and they take adjusting, so make sure to allow for that. I really think that if you start to delegate some of these tasks that you’re taking on yourself, you’re going to see a huge difference in how your systems work for you.
Now, next week we’re going to continue talking about how to make our systems work for us and make life a little bit easier by talking about technology that supports our systems. So I’m really excited about that.
All right. In the meantime, I would love for you to submit questions for me. I have an “Ask Tanya” episode coming up. You can submit questions at inkwellpress.com/question, and I’ll choose a few of my favorites to answer on the show. Also, if you haven’t joined our productivity community, I encourage you to join that at inkwellpress.com/group. I’d love to see you there.
All right. We’ll continue talking about systems next week. So until then, happy planning.
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton is a time management expert, productivity speaker and is host of one of the top productivity podcasts for women.