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How to Delegate

"You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility."

– Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan

Let's start with the 30,000-foot view of productivity. Why not? We can pretend we are all on a flight to somewhere nice simultaneously.

It is essential to take this macro view often when thinking about productivity. You are a human living in a capitalist system utterly reliant on a productive economy. Reliant, so much so that we need GDP to grow by the same rate as inflation to ensure our modern monetary theory works in practice. In a finite amount of time, we must make and do as many things as possible.

Now taking the micro view - the plane has landed, we are somewhere hot, and the queue through passport security is short. Wonderful.

Concerning our day-to-day, even if you use every tech tool out there, getting other people to do something for you is the fastest way to get more things done. While at the same time, you apply yourself to the things you do best - aces in places.

Are you spending your time doing the things you are most effective at?

This Letter will challenge your ideas on delegation. 

Firstly, in the short term, delegation should take longer. You must invest in the coaching phase; giving templates and examples takes time. Because of this, you need to assess whether or not the person you delegate to is worth it. Are they the right person to most effectively do the work? 

There is an opportunity cost to your time coaching.

Secondly, delegating often means accepting that the outcome of the task will be worse. You need to assess this quantitatively. Suppose you do the job to a level of 10. Someone else can do it to a level of 8. But it will allow you to focus on something with an outcome factor of 15. The delta to consider here = 7 against the loss of a -2. 

What's important to keep in mind, though, is that the -2 is "debt". Let it build up too much, and you'll run something into the ground. You may also need to go back and pay for it later by fixing something. So be wary.

I'd caveat this by saying that if you have a good team, the opposite of the above is most often true.

And lastly, you should check yourself. Maybe you should do the work; perhaps you're delegating because you're being lazy. Maybe this sounds like a you-job, and handing it off stops that person from doing the work they are best at. 

30% of managers think they are good delegators. But of those, only 30% were considered good delegators by their subordinates (Forbes).

How to delegate effectively:

Delegating is when you reassign work to other team members because it's more relevant to their workstreams and priorities.

  1. Apply this lens to any task that surfaces; am I the best person to be doing this piece of work?
  2. Practice letting go.You look better if your department wins than if you win alone.
  3. Spend time understanding each team member's strengths.
  4. Trust, then verify. Verify along the way using clear checkpoints. Kanban task management works well for this. Ensure you have blocked time to review the work and feedback at the end of the project. The more time you spend doing this at the start, the less you need to do it as time goes on.
  5. Coach, in this order: What (clearly set out the task), How (provide related work, guidance and tools), When (clear timelines) and Why (give context and highlight the broader strategy).
  6. Focus on results. Often someone will have a different way of doing things.

If you manage a team or collaborate with people, maybe it's time to get them a gift that will level up their workspace. View our A+R sets here. And this month, get £55 worth of free accessories with every order over £100.

Thank you, have a good week, Caspar.

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