The 7 Laws of Delegation

The 7 Laws of Delegation

Delegation is easy!

All you have to do is tell someone what to do! Right?

Well, technically yes. But if you want to delegate well, (and not constantly be hiring new people), there are some important “rules of the road” that will make your life (and your delegate-ee’s work) much, much better.



Rule 1 - Include the Why

When you ask for help with a task, take a moment to explain why you’re doing it. How will this task affect the business? Are you tweeting about baby sloths because you happen to know it’s trending, or because you’re trying to get the attention of someone who’s a big fan of baby sloths? Let your assistant know – they’ll do a better job, care more about your company, and will make better decisions if faced with questions you didn’t anticipate.



Rule 2 - Provide Information Up Front

Handoffs are the #1 time-suck for delegation. If you have a 10-step process and your assistant needs input for steps 6,8, and 9, go ahead and tell them everything they’ll need to know up front. This reduces your emails back and forth and lets them get more work done more quickly.

In our business, we have a “worksheet” we use if a certain task happens often and requires similar questions to be answered. That worksheet will be leveraged many times throughout the process, but means I only have to answer questions once – in advance.



Rule 3 - Train then Trust

Delegation is all about trust. Certainly, you’ll want to review your assistant’s work the first couple of times they do a task, but don’t hover over them or micromanage. That tells them you don’t trust their judgment and doubt their abilities – both great reasons for them to leave and find a better boss elsewhere.



Rule 4 - Unless I Hear Otherwise

Again, emails back and forth are a real pain – but perhaps even worse is if your assistant is waiting for your reply to keep working – and you somehow miss the email. A terrible waste of time!

Tell your assistants to make their best call based on the information they have, then email you saying “Unless I hear otherwise by (date / time), I will (do the thing I decided is the best path forward.) This gives you a chance to respond if you don’t agree with their decision, but means you don’t have to reply if you agree. Better yet, work keeps moving!





Rule 5 - If, Then, Otherwise

Many processes are based on “if – then” logic.

  • If it’s a Tuesday, then check the mail.
  • If a blog post was published today, then post it on Twitter.
  • If you receive an email with a certain subject line, then respond in a certain way.

For the first two above, the implied alternative is “do nothing”. “If it’s Tuesday, check the mail. If not, do nothing” But the last one is unclear – if I receive an email with a different subject line, what do I do?

When delegating, try to look for the “ifs” in your process and make sure you provide instructions for what to do if  – and if NOT.

“If you receive an email with a certain subject line, then respond in a certain way. Otherwise, forward it to me.”  Perfect.





Rule 6 - 1 plus 1 is 1.75

I have some bad news for you. Going from one full-time person working on your business to two full-time people will NOT double your productivity. Will you get a lot more done? Yes! Will it be double? Unfortunately not.

Now that you are a team of two (or more), some time will be lost in handoffs, communication and coordination. As frustrating as that may seem as a business owner used to your team of “one”, remember – this is a good thing. You’re still getting a lot more done than you would on your own.

Could Nike, Costco or Coca Cola exist if they were afraid to lose time coordinating and communicating? No way. It’s important – and okay – to invest this time in your business.



Rule 7 - One thing at a time

I am guilty of this.

I knew I needed to document my processes. So I dedicated weeks and wrote everything down, in one big Google Document.  I found an assistant who was qualified and seemed like a good fit for my team. My “onboarding” plan consisted of sharing the document with her and asking her to “get started”. It wasn’t long before she stopped returning my emails altogether.

Documentation is a good thing, but it’s just the first step. When training someone on a new process, respect that people need to learn in steps or stages – and show them one piece at a time. Even more importantly, make sure they know you are available for questions and clarification!



Guilty as Charged

I only know these rules because I have broken them all! Have you learned any useful “laws” of delegating that have helped your team work smoothly together?  Let me know in the comments!



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