Delegation, Part 2: What to Delegate?

Knowing what to delegate makes all the difference in the world. The the thing is to remember that it’s not just about clearing your calendar so you can focus on those key leadership tasks, it’s also about choosing tasks that your teammates will be energized about doing and that will make your organization stronger by providing greater depth, skill, and engagement.

This video shows you a good way to find tasks to delegate, and tells you the right kinds, and the wrong kinds of tasks to pass on to your team.

[Watch the video above or read the transcript below]

If You are the Driver, Drive the Car

OK, so you are sold on the idea that you need to delegate or die, like we talked about in the first video of this series.  And you can start to see delegation not as a way to dump an odious task on someone and then run in the other direction, but instead an opportunity to develop your team and grow the capability of your organization.

The next obvious question is, what exactly do I delegate?  And that’s what we’re going to be taking a look at here over the next few minutes.

When a race car driver pulls in for a pit stop, there is a lot that has to happen in a very short period of time.  Stop in exactly the right place, jack up the car, remove the lug nuts, change tires on both sides, replace lug nuts, get fuel into the tank.

What would happen if the driver got out of the car and tried to help change a tire?  Makes no sense, right?  His job is to drive the car, and he has teammates to do all the other things.

Not only is he wasting everyone’s time by getting out of the car and “trying to help”, he’s introduced confusion about who is supposed to be doing what, and he’s lost focus on his primary responsibility of driving the car.

If you are the race car driver, drive the car; if you are the leader, lead. Click To Tweet

With that scenario in mind, we can start to answer the question of what to delegate as a leader by figuring out what it is that is keeping you from focusing on your primary tasks of leading –  racing the car.

Doing this will take a little bit of homework since we want to find tasks that serve the dual purpose of making life easier for you, while developing the strength and capability of your team.

Identify Your “Time Vampires”

Let’s start with you, and see if we can figure out what the “time vampires” are that are sucking away at your productive hours.  A great way to get a handle on answering this question is to make a list of all the things you have to do every day, and I mean everything.

Recently, I used a spreadsheet when I had this problem – everything I did I put down the left column; across the top I put categories or types of work like logistics, administration, and meetings.  As I finished each task, I put in the number of minutes I spent, and had them automatically total at the bottom and feed a simple pie chart.  After a couple weeks you can end up with a pretty impressive diagram that will clearly show you where your time is going.

Now you can see that if you are spending 30% of your time doing logistics functions, you got your race car driver trying to help change the tire again, which means that might be a good area to zero in on to look for tasks to delegate.

Take a closer look at the areas that demand a high time commitment but are low payoff for you as the leader, and start looking for specific tasks that you can delegate. 

Delegate: high time commitment, low-payoff tasks. Click To Tweet

What to Delegate

As you start to consider which tasks these are, keep in mind that this exercise is as much about developing your team members as it is about freeing up time on your calendar.  Here is a short list of the kinds of tasks that you CAN effectively delegate to others that will benefit you both:

1.  Routine Tasks.  Routine tasks are good because they are clear and predictable and there is probably a set procedure or system to follow to get them done, so others can be trained to do them too

2.  Interesting Tasks.  If you pick interesting tasks, your team mate will be more likely to be motivated to do it.

3.  Tasks others can do better.  Look for tasks that maybe others can do better – perhaps it’s bookkeeping or design.  Let them play to their strengths and maybe you can learn a thing or two when you check on them.

4.  Whole Tasks.  Delegating whole tasks like special projects is a good idea – it makes it clear what has to be done and your team mate is not dependent on others for the final outcome

5.  Time-consuming Tasks.  Look for time-consuming tasks.  If you think of yourself as a $50 an hour executive, try not to get caught up doing minimum wage actions.

If you are supposed to be a $50 an hour leader, don't get caught up doing minimum wage functions. Click To Tweet

6.  Tasks that aren’t your job.  And, consider delegating tasks that you are not directly responsible for.  Even if maybe you like doing them, it might be time to let go so you can focus on more important things.

What NOT to Delegate

Just as some tasks are ripe for picking and handing to a capable team mate, others are not good to give away.  These include:

1.  Sensitive or Confidential tasks.  If you have been entrusted with sensitive information, it would be a mistake to try and hand the task off to someone else if it would violate that trust, and you’ll be a long time trying to regain it back again.

2.  Leadership Tasks.  Leadership tasks should always stay with you.  Things like vision, strategy and planning, goal setting and leading people are not tasks to give away, or else you are starting to abdicate your position and responsibilities as the leader.

3.  Vague Tasks.  Don’t pass down poorly defined tasks, either.  If you can’t clarify it, maybe it’s not ready to be handed off, or even done at all.  As the leader, you owe clarity to your teammates.

As a leader, you must provide clarity to your teammates. Click To Tweet

4.  Tasks that are your job.  And hang on to tasks for which you are directly responsible.  If it’s in your job description or your boss asked you specifically to handle it, you should probably be doing it.

What to Delegate – The Takeaway

Delegating right doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take a little bit of deliberate time and effort at the front end to ensure that the result you get is the one you need.  Knowing what to delegate is a huge part of this.

Now that you have your list of tasks you would like to delegate that will save you time and help develop your team, in the next video we’ll talk about how to go about actually delegating those tasks so that the job gets done right, and you have the peace of mind to focus on driving that race car.

Lead on!

Pit Stop
Peeling Potatos
Cycling in NYC
Mountain Climbers

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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