Delegation Tip: Give Away Your Pet Tasks

One of the mean things I do to participants on workshops when we get into delegation is I ask them to identify one of their favourite, most-loved, pet tasks. Then I ask them how they’re going to delegate it. Usually there’s an understandable amount of grimacing and squirming, a.k.a. discomfort. I should know, having been there. But, chances are, if you’ve progressed beyond your very first job and you’re moving up in your career, you’ve acquired a few pet tasks. And chances are, that your pet task has probably been your pet for too long.

This is true in pretty much any organisation, but a useful way to illustrate it is to look at people in professional services firms. Many of my clients have a billable rate, an hourly amount that they are charged out at to the individuals and companies who use their services. Let’s say that amount is $300. But when they started at work that amount was closer to $30. OK, it’s probably an exaggeration, but you see where we’re going here?

So as that person has moved up the ranks from $30 an hour to $300 an hour, if they’re still doing stuff from their earlier roles, they are undershooting their potential in several ways. They are undershooting the potential of their value to their employer, who would be entitled to expect them to do the work that goes with their billable rate and not much else. They are undershooting the potential of the people in their team, who might usefully take on the pet tasks, and as they do so learn, develop and themselves become more useful and valuable to their employer. They are undershooting their potential in that, as they take on more responsibility and yet don’t delegate their pet tasks, they will become overloaded and at risk of burning out. And they are undershooting their potential to do the $600 an hour stuff that will show what they’re capable of and build their case for promotion.

So next time you hunker down to do your pet tasks, stop and ask yourself, How much is this worth an hour to me and my employer? If the answer is less than you’re currently worth, it’s time to delegate.

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