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Perfecting the Most-Underrated Leadership Skill

If you have a to-do list a mile long and growing you will have several options to choose from.

If you have a to-do list a mile long and growing and don’t stop to re-evaluate, you have a few options to follow:

  • Work a ridiculous amount of hours trying to get it all done
  • Prioritize the list and realize some items just won't get done anytime soon
  • Talk with your boss to see if you can completely eliminate certain tasks
  • Delegate tasks to others

The first option isn't healthy for you or your family.  The second option can work, especially if you have agreement from your leadership on the prioritization.  Eliminating some tasks is probably a good idea if you can get approval to do so.  However, when eliminating tasks isn't doable the option to delegate certain tasks is ideal. 

Delegation accomplishes two things:
1. It gets the work done by someone who has the time (which at the moment is not you). 
2. It provides the person you're delegating to the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. 

Part of leadership is developing the next generation of leaders.  Delegation is key to that process.

Delegation, however, isn't simply a process of "Heredo this task" and walking away.  It requires explaining the task and at least offering a high-level overview of how to complete it.  Sometimes it feels like it would be faster to just do it yourself instead of delegating.  While that may be true in the short-term, you're setting yourself up to fail in the long-term if you choose to try and do it all on your own.

To make the delegation process easier and less time-consuming, here are a few tips:

#1 Delegate wisely

Don't delegate the most complicated task on your to-do list.  Instead, start with tasks that are fairly simple that you don't have to be the one doing.  Also, delegate tasks that are appropriate for the individual you're delegating to.  For example, don't ask someone who isn't the least bit detail-oriented to draft a minute-by-minute service order.

#2 Document the process

One big reason why it's easier for you to perform certain tasks is that you know exactly what you want the outcome to look like and how you would make that happen.  You need to communicate those elements to the person who'll handle this task for you.  For detailed, reoccurring tasks such as entering invoices into an accounting system, document the step-by-step process to complete that task.  This will help when you train someone to perform that task and will provide them with a "cheat sheet" when they forget a step.

#3 Train

Don't throw someone into the mix and expect them to just "get it."  Have that person shadow you as you perform the task (assuming it's a reoccurring one), review the documentation with them, then have them lead while you're there to help.  Repeat that process a few times until both of you are confident.

#4 Cast vision

When you delegate a task, explain the why behind the what.  Why is this task necessary?  What is the desired outcome?  Why do you want the task completed in a certain manner? When they understand the why, it's easier to remember the what.

Delegation requires some upfront investment of time.  However, it's a worthwhile investment that will save you time and frustration in the long term. 


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