Delegation Series Part II: Three Keys for Leaders to Increase Productivity and Avoid Burnout [With Worksheet]
Delegation is an area that most leaders know is important, but struggle to do well.
For leaders who don’t proactively delegate, this often manifests into feelings of stress and burnout – with a to-do list a mile long and no time to complete it. We all know (or have been) that person who just can’t seem to keep their head above water at work, and let’s be honest, it’s not only a miserable feeling, but it impacts the people around us, too.
The good news is, you’re here today to change that.
The first step is simple and requires a simple shift in mindset. Rather than thinking of delegation as a task, think of it as a discovery process. Delegation is an opportunity to think through where you are spending your time and who else could be helping to lighten your lift. I mention this now as you’ll notice this changes the way we talk about delegation — it may be different than what you’re used to hearing and may feel funny at first, that’s okay. Stick with it and you’ll see results.
Implementing solutions one at a time is a place to start. Whether you’re a CEO of a large organization looking to empower your leadership team, or the owner of a small to medium sized business wanting to improve your own delegation practice, you’re in the right place.
In this article, the second of a three-part series, we’re sharing a proven framework to help create a plan for delegation. If you haven’t read the first part of our series on how to stop firefighting, I’d encourage you to do so. The tips in that article outline how to decide the best things to work on before starting the process of delegating.
By proactively and effectively delegating, you and your leaders will:
- Increase organizational speed and capacity,
- Develop a stronger team, and
- Free up time to focus on higher value work.
Okay, ready to get started?
Coaching your leaders to be better delegators
Most leaders conceptually know the benefits of delegating – the more they can offload to others, the more time they’ll have to dedicate to higher value work. So, why is something that sounds so simple on paper often overlooked in practice?
Over the years, we’ve identified four key reasons leaders struggle with delegation. They include:
- A feeling that there isn’t anyone to delegate to
- The lack of time to train and develop someone to do the work
- A need for speed – an “I can do it better and faster” attitude
- Fear of losing control – if tasks are delegated, leaders must now oversee and ensure that it’s done right
While there is no silver bullet to solve these problems, there are practices that you can encourage your team to adapt to help combat these feelings and make the most of their (and your) time.
As you dive deeper into best practices for delegating, you’ll empower your team to:
- Create more time to focus on high-value work
- Think about delegating to peers and not just direct reports
- Focus on who can do it well
- Get comfortable with letting go and assigning control
- Become more resilient and accept that mistakes will be made
Getting started: Analyze the situation
We recognize that sometimes people need to see and experience things for themselves before a real change can occur. We designed this framework and tool so leaders can understand and discover opportunities for delegation. We do this through completing an inventory of what they’re working on and understanding how much time they’re truly spending on each item by looking at where they’re spending their time, leaders can identify who could help or take over tasks on the list. At this stage, try to avoid jumping to who will take on the tasks and use this time to explore all possibilities.
Download this worksheet for free to share with your leaders, or use for yourself, to help identify tasks to delegate.
Going through this exercise will empower leaders and build confidence that they’re choosing the best things to do, and not just doing things.
Using the results from the analysis
You’re one step closer to buying back time to execute on higher value work. These next steps will help make sense of the worksheet results.
First, leaders should decide what to do themselves
These should be the tasks and initiatives that are best aligned with your strengths and deliver higher impact. If you’re sharing this worksheet with your team, encourage them to think strategically and reduce purely tactical work when possible.
Then, decide who to delegate to
With completion of step 1, you’ve decided what tasks to delegate. Now, you’ll need to decide who to delegate them to.
In our practice, we urge leaders to consider which employees are potential candidates to take responsibility for the designated tasks.
Then, how do you decide which candidate is best? We suggest for this decision you consider the readiness of each potential candidate before delegating – if they’re not ready, consider the necessary training and development needed to equip them. This is where the discovery process mindset comes in – to truly be effective, this process isn’t as simple as making a list and adding initials next to tasks.
During your discovery, keep in mind the tasks that take meaningful time from you and are easier to delegate will be your quick wins. Here are some questions to consider:
- Will this help the person taking on work further develop in their role?
- Does this delegation inspire and motivate the team member to want to do more?
- What effort needs to be completed to successfully delegate the task to the chosen individual? This may include training, coaching, measuring results, or adjusting the timeframe for completion.
Carrying out delegation decisions
With a plan for delegation, the next step is to oversee the execution of the tasks that have been delegated. This part takes active communication, especially when working remotely.
Here’s are three quick tips to implement yourself and share with your leaders to help improve delegationmanagement:
Make it clear what it is the team member will be working on and why you chose them. Some examples of “why” include:
- “This is a strength of yours.”
- “This is a great opportunity for you to develop in your role.”
- “This will free me up to do higher value work to help our team move forward on [insert strategic initiative].”
Make the “what” clear and empower your team member to improve the “how”
- Show team members what the desired outcome looks like while empowering them to decide and or improve how they complete the task.
- Make sure they know what the expectations are in both quality and speed.
- Provide the necessary training and coaching along the way. The need for this should diminish over time.
Document processes and plans
- Document what you have delegated, to whom and when it is to be completed to have to look back on.
- Outline the accountability and communication plan for check-ins along the way.
- For bigger tasks, establish milestones, the plan to reach them, and points for review along the way.
Take your team to the next level
If there’s one thing that you take from this process, I hope that it’s the idea that delegation isn’t just offloading tasks. There’s a give and take because we can’t do it all. By shifting your mindset and approaching delegation as a discovery process, you will find more efficient ways to do things and make more time. This exercise will also help you and your leaders hone your priorities.
If you haven’t already, download your Delegation Worksheet to increase your ability to delegate successfully and improve productivity.
As you work through this, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. We’re here to help and are committed to your organization’s success.