4 Things to Think about before Delegating

We’ve all heard the phrase: “Do not get others to do that which you can do yourself.” But that advice is hardly undisputed. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Productivity guru David Allen says that when you discover a task, you should ask yourself, “Am I the right person for this job?” If the answer is no, you shouldn’t think twice about delegating it. If you’re not the right person for the job, it’s a waste of your time and others’ skills and assets for you to do it.

Booker T. Washington took this principle a bit further in his management of what would later become Tuskegee University. He said his governing principle regarding tasks was this: “Do not do that which others can do as well.” If you have a lot on your plate and there is someone else who can do the task just as well as you can, give yourself a little more breathing room by handing it off. This probably isn’t an issue for most people in principle: most of us would love to do less, so handing off tasks sounds delightful. The difficulty comes in deciding if a task should be handed off and, if it should, who it should be handed off to. There are four things the person you’re handing the task off to should always have.

  • Skills. Does the person you’re giving the task to have the skills to get it done? Even if your product developer is a responsible individual, don’t tell her to doctor a photo for an ad unless she has bonus skills in Photoshop.
  • Time. Someone may have all the skills necessary to get a task done, but does he have the time? Skilled people often have a lot of demands on their time, and other tasks may take priority over yours. Is that okay? Before you delegate a task, make sure you’ve talked with the person you want to do the task and ensure he has the time and resources to do what you need.
  • Independence. Will the person you want to delegate the task to be able to do it on her own, or is she going to be asking you for clarification and direction throughout the project? If it will take you just as long to answer her questions as it will to do it yourself, it’s not worth delegating. The extra interruptions to your existing workload won’t outweigh the task you delegated unless you are completely incapable of doing it yourself.
  • Vision. Does the person you want to delegate to understand the end goal for the task, or can you easily get him to understand? This isn’t as important for some tasks as it is for others (redesigning the company website requires more vision than writing an internal memo). However, you need to trust that the individual you’re delegating to will produce something you’ll be satisfied and (best-case scenario) pleased with. That means that you two need to share an understanding of the end goal.

If your go-to individual has these four traits and you need to free up some space on your to-do list, go ahead and share some tasks. You’ll be amazed at how quickly something will stop pestering your frantic mind when you know it’s in good hands.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *