Great business leaders don’t rise to the top without significant support. So why do so many of us waste time with daily “time-sponge” tasks (often menial) that soak up valuable energy, when we could be delegating them to perfectly able staff members?
The answer is confoundingly simple: it’s part ego, and part ignorance.
It’s not as if I don’t understand the challenge. As a busy leadership keynote speaker, it’s literally my job to help people understand exactly when to delegate, so they can maximize the time they spend doing what ONLY they can do. Yet for many years, in not-so-blissful ignorance, I probably wasted a good 10 hours every week slogging through my own administrative mud.
That’s a full day of potentially productive work hours—thrown away. Why? Because I’m a successful entrepreneur and leadership keynote speaker, I let my ego trick me into believing that nobody could do these tasks to the level that I could. And, in my ignorance, I had no way of knowing just how much impact taking these tasks off my plate would have on my career.
Here are three daily tasks to think about delegating, and who to tap for the privilege:
1. Prioritizing Emails. Hopefully, you’ve already found a stellar administrative assistant to help manage your calendar, book your travel, return phone calls and handle general office management tasks. But even though I do have a world-class admin, one thing I never thought to delegate was my email.
Although, as a sought-after business speaker, I get upwards of a hundred messages per day, only a small percentage of them require my attention at all—let alone my urgent attention. Yet that’s exactly what I was giving to every single email. Allowing my assistant to take this task off my plate not only gave me back about an hour of my day, it also enabled me to give my full attention to the 5–10 daily missives that really mattered.
2. Bookkeeping. I don’t mean to suggest you shouldn’t keep your finger on the pulse of your company’s financials. But if you’re still managing the day-to-day books for your business, I invite you to consider the long-term cost of keeping this endeavor on your daily to-do plate.
Not only is this sensitive information better entrusted to a trained accounting professional, bringing in an outside expert can also help uncover trends or errors that you might accidentally overlook. Unless finance makes up the bulk of your educational and/or professional experience, I’d recommend saving your energies for the big-picture thinking.
3. Project Management. Tim Ferris, author of The Four-Hour Work Week, said “To be a good leader, you cannot major in minor things—and you must be less distracted than the competition.” He’s right! How can you successfully run the whole farm if you’re always toiling away in the weeds?
Depending on the size and nature of your business, your project management solution may vary dramatically. For the leadership keynote speaker side of my business, I found that hiring a single, highly competent project manager for each of the two brick-and-mortar offices that I run (one in the U.S., one in the U.K.) was sufficient. One of my longtime clients who needed a larger solution hired a manager-level PM, then relied on that manager to hire a staff and deploy the right software.
When in doubt, default to the “6 Ts of Delegation.”
Here’s the most important thing to remember about delegation—the first task is the hardest. Once you gain confidence in the people to which you’ve entrusted each task, you’ll be amazed at the relief you feel. Entrepreneurs tend to have a control-freak streak, and that’s okay! It got you to where you are today, and this instinct is valuable in the the early days of any business.
But when it’s time to let go (hint: it’s time) and you’re not sure WHAT to let go, try running it through this filter, cleverly conceived by Delegation Ninja Jenny Blake. In my very early delegating days, I used a system similar to the 6 Ts when struggling with letting go of a task. Let it go if it’s:
- TINY: Small tasks that seem inconsequential are probably not worth your time. They add up.
- TEDIOUS: if it’s simple and straightforward (data entry, document updates), hand it off.
- TIME CONSUMING: Apply the 80/20 rule: hand off 80% (legwork) and use 20% to review/edit.
- TEACHABLE: If the task is part of a growth area for your employee, it’s worth the teaching time.
- TERRIBLE AT: If a task is outside your strength area, everyone benefits from you delegating.
- TIME SENSITIVE: Urgent tasks are often hardest to hand off—but have the biggest impact.
Delegation isn’t a completely effortless process; the on-boarding and training process is also time consuming, and there will be hiccups in the natural evolution of your relationship with your support staff. But please believe me when I say that “letting go” of the little things is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to your growth—and to the growth of your company. Once you find a groove in that trusting and collaborative relationship, you can get out of the details and focus on what’s essential for you: the big picture.