Personal Productivity

How to Delegate Effectively

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
tags Advice Teams
“Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” ~ George S. Patton

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How to Delegate Effectively

Stephen Covey says in his famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that we accomplish all that we do through delegation. We delegate either to time or to others. In the first case we are talking about efficiency, in the second one we are talking about effectiveness.

Delegating—or outsourcing—part of our tasks to other people is more complicated that what it seems but, according to my experience, it’s probably the activity that is bound to boost your productivity in a most resounding way. Obviously, before deciding whether it’s interesting to get part of your work done by someone else (by work I mean everything you need to get done, it can either be professional or personal), you should analyze how much your time is worth

Learning how to delegate is not easy. You have to leave your ego aside. Many times we believe that teaching someone to do certain things requires too much time and effort. Other times, we simply believe nobody is going to do it better than us.

But truth is, when you give your responsibility of certain tasks up to someone else who has the skills needed to get them done, you gain a big freedom in order to focus and carry out those activities to which you can truly contribute and make use of your best value.

It may turn out that delegating doesn’t go well at first—you have to reach the right mindset and find the right people—, but your probabilities will increase if you follow these advice:

  • Delegate the right things. Delegate those tasks that are not critical to you and that other people more capable than you can do. Delegate those tasks that have a lower cost to the value you can generate when doing other things. Delegate those tasks that can allow other people to grow. Delegate those things you don’t like doing.
  • Choose the right people. Make sure that the person you are going to delegate a certain task to has the knowledge and capacity to carry it out acceptably, according to your standards. You should also make sure that they have the time to carry it out. As soon as someone earns your trust, give them authority and promote their autonomy
  • Give clear instructions. You shouldn’t specify how a task must be done step by step (unless it’s the first time and some training is necessary), but you should make clear the desired outcome. Identify constraints and risks, if you know them. Suggest known approaches, if it’s something you have already done before.
  • Keep track of the delegated actions. Do not micro-manage, but check every so often how’s everything going. If there is no real due date, at least you should establish a target date, so that you can measure the results that are being produced. You should be available to give the necessary support when doubts or problems emerge.
  • Be human. Show gratitude for the work done. Praise the work which is well done. Suggest improvements or different approaches when you think it could be done better.
Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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