The Secret to Effective Delegation

I’ve been running a management training program for the last few weeks and recently taught a session on delegation. Naturally, everyone in the class was excited to learn how to delegate, but they were surprised by my advice.

I taught them that you can’t delegate work to someone else until you are properly organized yourself. In fact, I spent 75% of the class going over organizingyourself, and only 25% on delegation.

This advice wasn’t exactly what they wanted to hear, and I get it. Who wouldn’t rather just delegate a bunch of work rather than trying to get themselves organized?

But here’s the thing: in order to figure out what to delegate, you need to know where you add the most value and what your true capacity is.

You can’t delegate just anything. You want to delegate tasks that are fairly routine for you and that you feel ready to let someone else to take on. You don’t delegate new work, you don’t delegate critical work and you don’t delegate work that you would otherwise add the most value to.

Until you organize yourself, you don’t know what you should focus on doing yourself and what you should delegate. Delegating before organizing yourself is inefficient and potentially dangerous to your career. 

This isn’t just about making a list of things to do. It’s about assessing the value you provide, carefully considering what work you should prioritize and determining your true capacity.

There are two big factors you need to consider in order to decide what work to do yourself and what to delegate.

1) Determine where you add the most value in the business

Do you develop creative ideas? Do you make sure the reports are accurate and error-free? Do you analyze data for insights and opportunities? What is essential in your role and why do you have it rather than someone else?

2) Identify which work is “new” and which work is “optimized”

Optimized work is that which you’ve done for some time and have been able to cut down on the amount of time it takes you to complete. You have a process, and your results are accurate. You know the checklist. You’ve made, and fixed, the mistakes. You’ve worked out all the kinks. What work do you do right now that is considered optimized? What work do you do that isn’t?

Once you’ve done these two tasks, you’re ready to find work to delegate.

Delegate the work to which you add the least amount of value which has also been optimized. Sometimes, none of the work fits the bill. In this case, find a task that you add the least amount of value to, and work on optimizing the task in preparation for delegation. Don’t try to delegate before you do this step. If you delegate before you optimize, you won’t be able to properly manage the delegation, and you run the risk that quality will suffer. You can’t delegate a task that you haven’t honed first.

What to delegate better? Try this...

Create a work delegation matrix making a list all of the work and tasks that you currently do. Next, assess whether each one has high value or low value. Then, assess whether each one is well-honed or not honed.

For those items that are low-value and well-honed, determine what you would need to do to effectively delegate these tasks, and to whom you would delegate them to.

For those items which are low-value and not well-honed, determine what you need to do to hone these tasks in order to make them ready for delegation.

Good luck! Post questions below.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is an organizational consultant and business coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

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