Do you ever struggle with how to effectively delegate tasks?
As you may know, I’m a big proponent of outsourcing those functions in your business that do not fall into your “sweet spot.” For most entrepreneurs, these functions typically include administrative tasks, bookkeeping, web & graphic design, etc. But many times, I see business owners who continue to hold onto these tasks, even though they know they should be focused on more strategic activities, simply because they are worried about projects falling off the plate, or not being executed properly.
Usually, these business owners have been burned in the past, when they tried to transfer similar tasks to others with less than optimal results. When this happens, they often blame their support people for the process not going as they intended, but I find that oftentimes there has been a lack of clear communication from the get-go.
Here’s a simple, practical 4-step process that can be used to ensure important tasks get delegated efficiently—and that nothing falls through the cracks.
Step 1: Email clear instructions, along with a deadline.
Even if you delegate the task verbally (by phone or in a meeting), I always recommend capturing the assignment in writing, via email. This way, there’s no room for miscommunication. Make sure you indicate exactly what you want done, along with your desired outcome and a DEADLINE! If you’re not sure how much detail is too much, always err on the side of over-communicating.
Step 2: Track the task.
Having a “Waiting on…” list can be instrumental for you in keeping on top of things. Sometimes, once you’ve taken the next action you can personally take for a particular activity (e.g., sending an email, placing a phone call, mailing a letter, etc.), you can feel like your job is done—even though the loop hasn’t been closed and you’re still waiting on something. So anytime you take an action which results in having to wait for a response, answer or more information so you can move forward, jot it down on a special “Waiting on…” list.
Then (and this is critical!), make it a habit to look at this list every morning so you can follow up on anything that’s past its deadline or anything that’s been outstanding for too long. This way, you don’t ever have to waste mental energy worrying about things falling off the radar.
Step 3: Confirm the message was received, the deadline works and the instructions were clear.
Set the expectation ahead of time, that whenever your support person receives a task from you via email, he or she will respond immediately to confirm that the message was received and indicate whether or not that deadline will work. For example, they’d send something super quick that either says, “Got it – deadline works” or “Got it. Deadline will not work for X reason, but I can get it to you by Y date/time.” Also, this would be a great time for them to let you know if they have any questions about the task.
Step 4: Close the loop.
When your support person completes the task, he or she should send a quick, simple email with the word “Complete” or “Done,” along with any other information you might need related to the task. If, for some reason, the task is not completed on time, he she should let you know why and what’s being done about the situation.
Bonus Step: Create your Operations Manual, task by task.
If the task was an activity that will need to be performed regularly in your business, ask your support person to record in detail how he or she got it done. This is a great way to create your overall Operations Manual—task by task, as each activity is performed.
And that’s it…Easy peasy, right?
Note: I know there are much fancier project management tools out there (e.g., Basecamp or Central Desktop) that facilitate the flow of assignments to team members, but I wanted to share something that anyone could implement right away, even without any special software, to immediately improve their task delegation.
I’d love to hear…Have you had difficulties with delegating in the past? What do you think of this process? Do you have any additional delegation tips to share? Please go ahead and post in the comments below…