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How to Delegate Like a Pro: Five Questions You Should Ask Yourself


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

7 minute read

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When you think of the most important skills an entrepreneur should possess, you might think of strategic, analytical, financial, or communication skills as being top of the list. While all are undoubtedly key components for success, one vital skill is often overlooked — delegation.

Why entrepreneurs should delegate tasks

Delegation is a necessary part of leadership, but it’s not necessarily a natural one. One of the main reasons why business owners struggle to delegate is the fear of losing control. Most of us are control freaks where our businesses are concerned, so you might assume that you are the only person with the knowledge or experience to achieve the desired results.

However, according to a Gallup study, CEOs who excel in delegating earn up to 33% higher revenues. So if you’re still tempted to hold on to all those tasks that are eating away at your time, here are more reasons why you should let them go:

Avoid burnout

If you are wearing too many hats, chances are your days will be spent working flat-out, scrambling to complete a to-do list that’s a mile long. Do you work overtime and stay late to ensure all your tasks are completed, giving yourself considerably less time for rest, relaxation, family, or friends, or do you leave the tasks unfinished and feel stressed, anxious, and guilty when your workload is piled even higher as a result?

Unfortunately, whichever option you choose can quickly lead to burnout, which can severely impact your mental and physical health, your personal relationships, and the quality of your work.

Prioritize important tasks

Offloading irrelevant and time-consuming duties lets you regain the crucial freedom to focus on high-impact, business-critical tasks. As the head of your business, your days should ideally be spent working on plans and strategies to grow the company or solve any problems.

Increase productivity

If your absence leads to processes pausing or stopping altogether, then it will be tough for your business to thrive. One of the main driving forces for growth is the ability to spend your time working on your business instead of in your business, and delegation is what makes this possible.

Five questions you should ask before delegating a task

While it may seem daunting if you have never done it before, the good news is that successful delegation can be boiled down to five essential elements. Get these right, and you’re good to go!

Is the task suitable?

Let’s be clear, delegating isn’t about handing off everything on your plate, but rather, strategically focusing your time, energy, and resources on the tasks that move your business forward. Some items on your regular to-do list may only take relatively small amounts of time to complete each day, week, or month, but this can seriously add up. For example, the average full-time employee in the US spends 28% of their workday reading and replying to emails. That’s roughly 2 hours and 14 minutes per day, 11 hours and 10 minutes per week, and nearly 45 hours per month. Think about what you could achieve by reclaiming that time alone!

However, while we at Time etc are firm believers in freeing up as much of your time as possible, not all tasks are suitable for delegation. For example, social media scheduling is a task that can easily be done by someone else if provided with the right guidance, but devising a new marketing strategy should be the responsibility of your in-house marketing team or an external consultant.

In the same way, tasks that require your personal attention, such as performance reviews, personal employee matters, and strategy formulation, should stay in your remit.

But if it doesn’t require your specific knowledge or expertise, and it would be possible for someone else to do it with the right instructions, then you should consider delegating it. If you want a quick and easy way to determine which of your regular tasks could be taken off your plate, try our free online tool.

Have I selected the right person?

Successful delegation is not just about getting someone (anyone!) else to do a job — finding the right person for the job is vital.

Virtual assistants may be your best solution for delegating tasks. Each year, more and more business owners are leveraging the benefits of adding VAs to their teams. For starters, virtual assistants often have many years of professional experience, they can pick up the slack if you or your team is too busy, and hiring a virtual assistant is considerably more cost-effective and flexible compared to recruiting a new full-time employee.

But while many people believe that virtual assistants are masters of all trades, each individual assistant will likely have a niche area of expertise that they specialize in, such as admin, executive support, or digital marketing. If you originally hire a virtual assistant for one purpose (scheduling and email management, for example) but then the time comes when you decide to offload other tasks (let’s say, social media management), it's best to delegate it to someone else who is better suited for it. One of the benefits of using a specialist virtual assistant service, such as Time etc, is that you can add additional assistants to your team at no extra cost, so you can make sure all bases are covered when it comes to your tasks.

Have I written out the process?

Information is power, and this is especially true when it comes to delegating.

Once you’ve established what task you would like to delegate and the skills and experience required, it’s time to think about the finer details. What would someone need to complete this task? Do they need access to a particular email or website? Do they need log-in credentials? Is there a specific software or program they should use?

You want your guidelines to be easy for anyone to follow. No need for fancy fonts or excessive decoration — simple bullet points should be enough. If you can, it’s worth testing the instructions before with a colleague who has never done the work before to ensure that they are clear and understandable.

Creating instructions for your assistant might feel like another time-consuming task, but trust me, it is worth it! Taking the time to document the process will not only help your assistant complete their tasks successfully, but it will also save you time when you’re not having to repeat instructions over and over again.

Have I set clear expectations?

For your assistant to perform your tasks effectively, it’s important to make your expectations clear from the start. This may include:

  • How you would like to be contacted
  • The desired outcome (e.g. specific deliverables)
  • Company tone-of-voice (if applicable)
  • Deadlines for completion
  • The criteria you measure success against

With this knowledge in place, it will be much easier to follow up on progress, recognize accomplishments, and identify and solve problems.

Have I offered support?

Providing clear guides and setting out your expectations is an absolute must for delegation success. However, even the best-written instructions might not cover every scenario.

It's important to be there for your assistant in the early stages of the process. Be available to answer their questions and make sure they have everything they need from you. To begin with, it might take a little time for them to get used to your tasks and processes. However, with enough guidance and a little patience, they'll soon be completing your work quickly and efficiently and you won’t have to worry about that task ever again!

More tips for successful delegation

Open channels of communication

Effective communication is crucial for success in many aspects of business, with well-connected teams being 20-25% more productive according to a recent report, and delegation is no exception. Decide early on how you and your assistant will communicate regarding your tasks, including the frequency and the method. For example, a weekly update via email might be your preferred way of receiving updates on task progress, but if your assistant has a time-sensitive query, they may message you on Slack.

Provide regular feedback

Feedback is the only way your team members will know whether or not they are meeting your expectations. According to Gallup, employees who receive regular feedback are nearly four times more likely to be engaged at work than other employees.

If you find something wrong, let them know! Clear and constructive feedback stops mistakes from being repeated, which would naturally be frustrating for you both. However, it’s also important to share your positive feedback. Share when you’re happy with their work, such as how quickly they completed the task for you, or their attention to detail.

Final Thoughts

Delegation is an essential part of growing your business. No matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to do it all. But asking yourself these key questions and putting these tips into practice will ensure you won’t go wrong.

Are you ready for a less stressful, more successful life? Are you ready to take back the reins of your time? Try a highly skilled and experienced virtual assistant for free or speak to our team to build a plan that’s perfect for you.

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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