“People often end up being busy on the wrong things — so they feel they’re being productive, but it isn’t getting them anywhere. Richard was a master at being productive only on the things that pushed Virgin forward.”

Penni Pike, Sir Richard Branson’s assistant for more than 30 years.

Let’s just cut to the chase here. Not being able to delegate isn’t just a problem. It’s a whole philosophy that I need to change. There is so much anxiety wrapped up in the idea of letting others do things that I believe I can do better, or faster–I’ve convinced myself of many things. I am so twisted on this concept that I need to immediately change my thought process on it. I need help immediately.

I’ve already started to buy books on the art of delegation and I’m going to get started on them. That’s the basic level. The next thing I did this morning that I went to my mentor and asked him to teach me about delegation. He’s already told me that it was one of his weaknesses and was gracious enough to spend 35 minutes to share all he knows about delegation. I’m going to share that here.

The first thing I learned is the reason why I won’t delegate. The main reason for me is not only am I good at doing a lot of things; I also feel like delegation is sometimes passing off work and appearing to be lazy. I had this idea that it’s somehow noble or honorable to suffer through crappy tasks, but this is just plain wrong. It’s broken thinking. It’s not seeing the whole picture. I’ll cover this more in the second point below.

Delegation is not abdication. I can’t just pass off a job and not expect to have to do some upfront investment of my time to make sure the job is done right. Successful delegation lies within me, not within the person I delegate the task to.

Five key points to being a world-class delegator

  1. Invest the time now to get more time later. Set aside time specifically for the act of delegating. Delegation has to be planned and executed when we are calm and thinking clearly. Even though you might be able to do it faster now, what about when this task comes up again later? We have to change our thinking to understand and commit to the fact that delegation requires an upfront investment of our time. We have to hand the baton off along with details.
    1. The results of successful and effective delegation are can empower you and the rewards are unlimited.
    2. You’ll get more time back in the future.
    3. Be patient, remember the rewards that we will get when we get delegation right.
  2. Find the right person. This can help specifically with the “passing off a task to someone else” hang-up that I have used in the past to justify not delegating. There is someone out there that loves to do the things we don’t like to do. Hate doing spreadsheets? I know a guy that loves doing them so much, that’s basically all he does, he’s a master at this. I on the other hand — I can’t stand it. But I hated asking him to do them for me because I thought that he would resent me for it. RIDICULOUS. Find the people who play at the things you think are work. Here’s the hard part for me, once you’ve found this person… TRUST them to do it. Make sure you do the upfront work to explain WHY they are doing the task, why it’s important to you, what your values are in the task. Once you’ve explained and trained them and given them your expectations–let them be the superstar they are at that task you once wallowed through.
  3. Clearly define the goal and the why. We touched on this in the last step, but I want to single it out. The act of delegation is that we are really fostering autonomy. Without clearly defining the goals of the tasks we are delegating no one will know why they are doing it. And if they aren’t clear, it’s likely that we won’t be satisfied with the results. Sometimes we will have to train skills to get to the level of absolute autonomy–but again. Remember that we have to pay the price the get the promise. We have to do the work first, then we can reap the rewards of gaining more time back.
  4. Explain how success is measured and provide clear check-in points and deadlines. I love this quote from Andrew Carnegie. It really gets to exactly how to have expectations set and a clear routine.
    1. “What I do is get good men and I never give them orders. My directions do not go beyond suggestions. Here in the morning, I get reports from them. Within an hour I have disposed of everything, sent out all my suggestions, and the day’s work is done. Now I am ready to go out and enjoy myself.”
    2. Delegate the objective, not the procedure. The other thing from this quote is that Andrew didn’t give orders, he gave suggestions. We have to focus on results, not perfection. Let the people we’ve tasked do the things they need to do their way.
    3. Inspect what you expect. Make sure that your deadlines are clear and that you are reviewing the reports that you’re asking for–pay close attention to the details and add clarity whenever necessary.
  5. Provide the equipment and let them fly. This is the scariest and best part. Once you’ve made sure the person you’re tasking has all the tools and all the information that you feel they need to accomplish the task. Ask them if they think they can accomplish it and let them do it. Get out of the way and go out and enjoy yourself. Now you have invested your time into completing a task that you don’t have to worry about again.
    1. Once equipped with all the tools, let your employee soar.
    2. Trust them, but verify that the task is getting done. Make sure you read reports, follow up on check-ins. It’s still your responsibility.

Now, after getting all this–I had a couple of questions. The first question came from the idea that my company is still new and I can’t really afford to hire a huge staff or a bunch of people. This is what Darren (my mentor) told me.

“You’re asking how we bridge the gap. How do we go from that single entrepreneur to the millionaire business owner when it comes to delegating? Follow the advice of Ken Fisher, a Forbes 400 billionaire.

“Look, when you first start a business it’s likely that you are going to have to do everything–sales, customer service, accounting, all the way down to taking out the trash. Your goal is to get enough SALES going so you can quit taking out the trash and hire someone else to do it. Get more sales going, then quit doing the accounting; hire a specialist to do it. Get more sales going and quit doing.

Ken Fisher, Forbes 400 Member

All businesses need cash flow and sales. If you have sales and cash flow you can hire more people. Sales drive everything. Get busy quitting all the little jobs in your job and focus on leading people. Go from everything to nothing. Do this as fast as you can.”

What about people that work for others? What if I’m the lowest man on the totem pole? His answer:

“The hypothetical question, [heheh] okay, well–think about this. You used to manage people. I’d suggest that you go to your boss and figure out exactly why you’re on the payroll, if there are things that you’re doing that don’t contribute directly to the success of the company; try to figure out things that you can have other people in the organization do for you. There are likely going to be people that are below your pay grade, assistants, laborers, or others that can take some of the low-impact tasks you’re doing and do them better than you anyway. Any boss will be delighted to hear you that you are striving to do your job more effectively, and should be happy to assist you with outsourcing the things you might be doing, especially if you become more productive and make the company more money by assigning things to others that are getting paid less than you. It might even be a better tool you need or a piece of software, or maybe they will assign you a helper. You have to be creative and realize that it sometimes takes careful and thoughtful planning and analysis to find things in your workflows that can be outsourced. But, you just can’t say–I can’t delegate things in my position without doing a serious evaluation of what you’re doing. And then asking for help on things so you can be a better employee.”

The last bits of advice I have are these:

  1. Force yourself to delegate. You’ll fight it but just do it. Your success depends on this.
  2. Do it before you’re ready. Don’t be the “too little too late” person. Realize now that if you try to delegate when you’re overwhelmed you’re going to make mistakes. Do the investment, pay the price upfront and now.

Have a great day! Remember to gather from today to make tomorrow easier! Don’t just get through today, TAKE from today. Take from today and apply it to the future. I’m sending out love to you. Be the best.

Featured Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash