How to Delegate. (Successfully)
Let’s talk about delegating for a second. This time of year I always find myself channeling my inner Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One part of me wants to close the laptop and snuggle with my little one watching holiday movies all day and getting fat(ter) on a diet consisting only of homemade baked goods. But another part of me sees the new year approaching and is ready to dive into all things business development and goal setting. The struggle is REAL, y’all.
Most people probably fall into one of those two contradicting personalities so maybe you can relate. The thing is delegating will help you no matter where you fall on this spectrum between the urge to be your own boss and take the day off to bake or to be your own boss and put in those hours!
But delegating is easier said than done - I know that as well as the next tiny business owner. I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how productive I am being - I am never enough alone. And no matter how much I think it will complicate things it is ALWAYS easier with help!
I’ve learned the hard lessons so you don’t have to - but don’t let me stop you if you want to learn them the hard way yourself.
Successful Delegation Step 1: Understand how you spend your time
Before you know what you can delegate you need to know how you are spending your time. This is going to require, unfortunately, a little extra work on your end. Set up a time tracker, like Harvest, or just grab a fresh notebook and your favorite pen. Then go about your average day, recording what you spend your time on.
This includes both personal and professional time. You’re likely a small business owner yourself, or a freelancer and the time blurs together. Your personal times do not need to be as detailed for example everyday from 9am - 1pm I am out of the office doing homeschool & lunch with my daughter. I would just jot down OUT OF OFFICE - MOMMING. This doesn’t necessarily mean I am doing no work during these times but it does mean I am already committing my time to something else during that period of time.
It’s also important to try not to work any differently than you normally would. You will probably notice some unhelpful habits, for example I spend entirely too much time each day just staring into the void trying to remember what I’m forgetting.
I also get up from my desk about 645 times per hour to do mom things.
That’s okay, we’re not changing behavior right now we’re just creating a log. Log it all. You can figure out what matters and what doesn’t down the line.
What you want to be paying extra attention to is the time you spend on tiny, repetitive administrative tasks like timesheets, invoicing, email and so on and so forth. These are the low hanging fruit when it comes to delegation and some of the easiest things to hand off first. Take note while you’re noting your time if the task needs to be done by you or if it is something that could be done by someone else. Keep in mind if everything on your list is a “must be done by me” thing - you’re both lying to yourself and getting in your own way.
Successful Delegation Step 2: Involve Others
This will look differently depending on your personal and professional circumstances. If you’re a mom like me, delegating may just be involving your partner or child more. For example; my husband handles the math portion of our homeschool routine and does so after work every evening so I can use that time to work. (I sort of just move my “working hours” from the AM when I’m homeschooling to the PM when he is - so my workday isn’t drastically affected by her homeschool schedule.)
We also work hard to make sure the home is set up in a way in which she can be as independent as possible given she’s already 6 and half. She makes her own breakfast every morning and gets herself ready and starts on chores - honestly before I’m out of bed most days - and that helps a lot.
Side note: This was not my idea. I basically gave birth to a 75 year old lady. This girl is up at the crack of dawn every morning and is quite the morning person. Occasionally, if I get up early enough, I will catch her doing her morning yoga! She should be one writing this blog, but she hasn’t mastered complete sentences yet - so you’re stuck with me.
If you run a small business, also like me, you may need to hire some help. This can be dedicated roles like designers, or sales people. Or it can be more general help like virtual assistants or administrative help. Whatever help looks like for you- find it! In order to delegate you have to have someone to delegate to.
Successful Delegation Step #3: Make a Plan
Oh! This is my favorite part. I am a sucker for a good plan. Once you know what is being delegated and to whom you need to make a plan. And if you’re thinking “well my plan is to delegate that thing to that person” - you are wrong. Adorable and so sweet but wrong all the same. No offense but that is a shit plan, sister!
To plan for successfully handing off tasks you have to know to make a detailed plan. Let’s try this with a common example: social media content.
I currently write all of The Clever Catalyst’s social media content but let’s say I wanted to delegate that job to Jesse. She is wonderful and amazing and beautiful and more than capable of handling it out the gate with no directions from me BUT that would be in bad form.
Here is how I might set up that delegation:
Create a master list of tasks involved with social media creation the way I do it.
Assign those exact tasks to Jesse
Hey Christi! So far this looks a lot like that shit plan you just told us about!
It does, you’re right but I’m done yet.
Schedule/Assign an orientation call to go over all the things and let Jesse ask whatever questions she may have
Assign the due dates for the tasks I was handling and now Jesse is handling at least one week before I would have had them done. (2 -3 weeks is what I typically go for)
Then assign review dates to myself.
The final project may look something like this:
1st of each month - call to go over goals
5th of each month - Copy is due for all platforms
10th of each month I review copy and approve or request edits
17th of each month graphics are due
20th of each month I approve graphics or request edits
25th of each month all scheduling is done
Not all tasks will be this intensive, managing social media creation and strategy is a big task. If your task is smaller like daily checking of emails or invoicing you may not need nearly as much hands on time yourself. But always keep in mind when initially delegating a project you will need to expect onboarding time and extra time for review - especially if the person you are delegating to doesn’t know you and hasn’t learned how you tick yet.
Even in this example with Jesse and my content I would probably plan on having one on one calls to review together the first few rounds, just so she could know exactly what edits I was making and why so that she could learn how to do it better. Not a soul - not even the perfection that is my Jesse will nail a task straight out of the gate.
But there is a limit to the madness….
Successful Delegation Step #4: LEARN that 80% is good enough
Let’s have a quick story time. Once upon a time when I was just starting out in my freelance career I had this awful nightmare client. Actually the person was a kind soul and a great conversationalist but what they had in personality they lack HARD in business acumen. (S)He would pick and pick and pick and pick at a task striving for perfection until we had well overblown the budget and wasted hordes of money. In fact, in the entire time I worked for this person in their business - I never saw them draw any profits for themselves. Like they literally never paid themselves and earned $0 per month - even though they busted their ass day after day after day.
All because of micromanaging. When delegating anything it’s important to keep in mind that 80% as good as you would have done it is good enough. I know this may sound awful but it’s standard business advice and I’ve even heard it on the Shark Tank a few times.
Does this mean you shouldn’t request edits or make changes to work you’ve done or had done under your name? Of course not. You should feel proud of every single thing you put out. It is a reflection of what you are capable of as a business and your reputation matters.
BUT (and this is a big BUT) if what you’re changing isn’t changing the actual substance of what you’re working on you are wasting your time. If you are spending hours going over copy with your freelancer adjusting twitter posts to include the work “utilize” instead of “use” you’re wasting your time. Ask yourself before tweaking anything Does this tweak change the look, tone, feel, or message of what I’m putting out? If not, channel the tiny little Elsa inside of your and LET IT GO!
Today’s earwig is brought to you by Disney’s Frozen.
(Don’t watch the sequel, it's garbage!)
Successful Delegation Step #5: Accept your New Role
When I first launched my LLC it was just me. Literally only me. And then it was just me and the wonderful Bryan - but he did design work and I handled everything else. Over time it evolved and at the time of writing this I have 4 amazing team members. Adjusting to my new role in the business has been hard. Every single time I hired and delegated. But I got through it and so can you!
Remind yourself why you’re delegating in the first place. If it was so you could have more time with your family, hobbies or on more important projects go do those things. Let the person you’ve delegated the task to own the task. This is what you wanted!
If a system isn’t working you rework the plan - you don’t throw the idea out of the window. It may be bumpy at first. You may not have the best luck when hiring and find a few bad apples the first time. That’s okay. Learn from it and move on. There is no fortune 500 company that is run by a single person.
Delegating is the magic - not really - little something extra that can take you from where you are to where you want to be. And just in case you’re looking to delegate any of the services we offer to someone like us, this is where I tell you that you’re in the right place. Wink wink.