You can't just wave at a pile of papers and tell someone to take over. You need to lay the groundwork for them by creating detailed instructions and scalable processes. Learn how to do it.
- Wouldn't it be nice if you could just wave at a pile of papers on your desk and magically tell someone to take it over? Of course, they'd have absolutely no idea what to do. And part of the reason that delegation efforts often fail is that many people try to hand off responsibility without properly explaining what's needed or providing the proper training. That's not going to be your mistake. You know you need to lay the groundwork for successful delegation by creating detailed instructions and processes, and here's how to do it.
To start, you have to break down the task into its constituent parts. Once you're proficient at something, you often just think of it as one thing. Oh, just post a status update or just play a solo in G Major. But if you've never done those things before, that's incredibly confusing. You have to master the individual steps first. So take a step back, embrace beginner mind, and actually go through the process once where you write down every single step you take. For instance, if you're asking someone to upload a social media post for you, you'd need to explain where they can find the master list of posts you're drawing from or if they're supposed to make it up, where do they get the information to do so and do they need to run it by you first? Then, how do they log in? What's your password? What do they click to get to the screen where they can upload your message? When do they schedule it for? How many posts do you want them to schedule per day? Are there guidelines they should follow in tagging people? That's the level of detail you need to write down in the manual of tasks you're going to create for them.
Something that can be helpful here is creating short, instructional videos for the person you're delegating to. There are many free or low-cost video software options available. You can search online to find suggestions. Doing a quick two to five minute video with you narrating over a recorded screen cast where you're explaining what you're doing can often eliminate ambiguity and make your instructions far easier to grasp. When you're setting up the structure of your delegation arrangement, one thing that's essential to clarify is how much autonomy you're giving the person.
For every task, you want to let them know what they're expected or allowed to do themselves versus what they need to check with you on. Getting this straight from the beginning can save you a lot of headaches. For instance, if they're posting on your social media account, is there a lit of pre-approved messages that they're merely posting or are they creating new content in your name? If so, do you need to approve every one first? That matters, for obvious reasons. Even for lower-stake situations it's important to answer. If they're creating PowerPoint presentations for you, should they come to you with a complete draft ready or do you want them to check in after they've designed just the first few slides so you can weigh in and suggest any changes early on? Finally, providing instructions at this level of detail can obviously get annoying fast.
It's hard to motivate yourself to do it, but podcaster and coach Lisa Cummings, has a suggestion. She says, "The life hack for me is to tell myself to celebrate the very last time I will do a given task, then I'll document the process in excruciating detail. So rather than lamenting how long it takes to detail the process, I frame it to myself as an exciting last hoorah." The more we can get excited about the specifics and the mechanics of delegation, the more likely we are to do it right, and in a way that's useful for the person receiving our instructions.