How can I delegate when I don’t have time to explain?

One of Zoomly’s best-selling 90-minute workshops is ‘How to delegate effectively’ and no matter where or with whom it runs, there are always cries of, “but but but – I don’t have time to delegate!”

Fair point: most of us are ‘crazy busy’, working longer hours yet seemingly getting less done, being more distracted yet less productive – and suffering more stress as a result.

So what’s to be done? You’re not going to like my answer…

It’s. Your. Job.

That’s right; delegating tasks to the people on your team (and probably in other departments too) is part of your job. A significant part – because it will be your ability to get things done through others that determines not just your performance, but that of the whole team.

It’s been my observation that the people who progress fastest are usually those that are great at getting other people to do stuff. This leaves them space and time to focus on the tasks that, a) they are really the very best person to do and, b) add the most value.

Yet typically what happens on being promoted is that we take on extra responsibilities – and still drag all our old tasks along with us. So we’re trying to do the old job and new one. Then someone tells us we should be doing more delegating – sound familiar? – and it’s no surprise that the response is, “Oh yeah? And when am I supposed to have the time to do that?”

If you’re going to progress, you need to delegate. It just doesn’t make sense – professional, financial and for your wellbeing – to be doing the stuff that goes with your old pay grade. Try these 5 tips to help loosen your grip on those jobs you shouldn’t be doing any more:

1. Identify what to delegate
Complete a running timesheet on what you’re really doing all day. It will surprise you. Do this for three days and at the end of that time identify the tasks that add the most value. That’s what you need to be focusing on. Delegate everything else.

2. Put a price on the work
Everyone’s got a chargeable rate, not just lawyers and accountants. There will be items on your timesheet that are worth far less than your chargeable rate. You may be very good at them – and no wonder, if you’ve been perfecting the skills for years. Accept this is probably why you’re hanging on and that it’s time to take on higher-value work. Set yourself a target for the amount of time you’ll be spending on work that matches your rate, and a target for work that’s worth more than that.

3. Identify who to delegate to
Think laterally about this: who’s got the skills needed to do the job well? It may be someone in another department; so you may need to barter. Or it may be someone more junior than you had in mind. Or it may be more cost-effective to outsource it (be sure to check with the bill-payer first).

4. Get someone to shadow you as you do perform the task
This is often the best way for someone to take on jobs you’ve been doing. Tell them to make notes and let them ask questions.

5. Ask people to develop a flow diagram and/or checklist for the job
Get them working on this from the start and review it together. That way you’ll be able to check they’ve got everything – which will probably include things you do so automatically you would have omitted them if you’d just told the person. You’ll also feel more reassured that they know what to do.

Yes this can take time initially. Stick with it and you’ll soon start to see rewards.


You may also find this blog post useful: Are you delegating, dumping or micro-managing?


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’


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