Updated: Jun 2, 2022
Take steps to eliminate the need for delegation at your organization.
I had a boss who encouraged me to delegate when I felt overwhelmed. During our one-on-ones, she asked me to go through my priorities. She then asked me to hand off most tasks. This felt impossible, because my team was already overloaded. I couldn’t fathom crushing them with the weight of my responsibilities.
But I knew my boss was right. I was holding on to decision-making authority. I was holding on to tasks that could be managed by others. When I looked at the leaders I wanted to emulate, they were delegating decision-making authority and goals rather than tasks and responsibilities.
So instead of asking someone to attend meetings on my behalf or write grant reports, I began to shift the authority to make decisions that happen in that meeting and the goals that are associated with that grant to somebody else.
The easiest way to delegate is to set up a system where the only tasks you have are yours. In other words, the easiest way to delegate is to never do it.
In an ideal system, delegation isn’t necessary because people are managing workflow according to a clear set of guidelines. And if the system you’re working in is not ideal, it may be fairly simple to reorder workflow.
At Seed, we find that teams unite under clarity of responsibility and decision-making authority. This unites teams, it doesn’t burden them. With this type of clarity, delegation is rarely needed because tasks flow to the correct person automatically. Consider this chart:
Without doing a company reorg, you can bring clarity to the goals individuals are responsible for and the decisions they have authority to make.
First, it helps to outline all of the possible goals your team manages. Start with your organization’s missional goals and work backwards to output goals or milestones that are necessary to achieve the missional goals. Then decide who holds responsibility for each milestone. There will be overlap, but there also will be goals unrelated to certain job titles. Already, there is clarity when it comes to who manages or doesn’t manage certain tasks.
Next, outline all of the decisions that are made by your office. Group types of decisions with types of goals. Assign decision-making authority to allow for progress on tasks that support these goals.
For example, if you receive word that your organization has been awarded a grant to serve 100 new people, your first order of business is to begin delegating so that you are no longer entirely responsible for getting the new grant off the ground.
If you receive word that your organization has been awarded a grant to serve 100 new people, your team has a launch meeting where each person identifies the parts of the new grant they are responsible for.
Of course this is not the end all solution on the topic of delegation. Some might not have a team to share responsibilities and decision-making authority. Some might argue that delegation is something to be practiced regularly as a vote-of-confidence for your direct reports. Others (Tim Ferriss) might say that you should conduct an annual audit of the tasks that generate negative emotional states and delegate or automate them to increase productivity.
Regardless of your delegation strategy, it pays to review efficiency. How efficient are you at managing tasks? What exactly are your activities producing? Are you producing what you planned to or something else? If these questions cause you to cringe, consider increasing clarity on goals and decision-making authority within your team.