#043: How to Delegate Even If You Don’t Have a Staff [Podcast]

Delegation truly is a fine art and a necessary skill. In this episode, I talk about how you can delegate even if you don’t have a staff.


Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/elgol

Whenever I write or speak on the topic of delegation, I always get a question from someone who says, “But what if you don’t have a staff? How can you delegate?” As you increase your impact in the world, you will, inevitably, encounter situations where delegation is not only helpful but essential to growth.

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This episode is Part 2 of Episode 42: The Fine Art of Delegation.  Before proceeding, it would be beneficial for you to go back and reexamine some important principles covered in that episode. 

In this episode I want to recommend seven strategies for those who want to delegate but don’t have anyone to whom you can delegate.

  • Strategy #1: Triage your “To-Do List.”
  • Strategy #2: Use technology more effectively.
  • Strategy #3: Negotiate out of previous assignments.
  • Strategy #4: Ask for volunteer help.
  • Strategy #5: Use variable cost alternatives.
  • Strategy #6: Appeal for more resources.
  • Strategy #7: Muster the courage to say no.

I know this just scratches the surface, but I firmly believe in the principle that “he who is faithful in little is also faithful in much” (see Luke 16:10). If you are a good steward with what you have been given, you will eventually be given more.

Listener Questions

  1. Celeste Vaughn asked, “How do you know when it’s time to let go and trust someone else to do the job right?”
  2. Daniel J. Lewis asked, “How can I ensure quality control when I am delegating tasks to volunteers who may not have much experience with the tools and techniques I need them to use?”
  3. Dr. Bill Dyment asked, “When it comes to social media, what portion can you delegate to others and what part should you continue to do yourself?”
  4. Gary Morland asked, “How do you track and follow-up on tasks you delegate?”
  5. Jeremiah Crane asked, “How do I get my supervisor to delegate more important work to me without coming across as power hungry?”
  6. Julie Sunne asked, “What kinds of business-related tasks can I delegate to my teen children?”
  7. Paul Jolicoeur asked, “When do you know it’s time to delegate a task to someone else to free you up for new opportunities?”
  8. Phil Darke asked, “How do you demand excellence from those to whom you delegate and not appear to be micromanaging them in the process?”
  9. Richella Parham asked, “How do you decide whether a task should be delegated or simply eliminated?”
  10. Samson Varughese asked, “How do I keep from trusting too much and not exercising enough oversight?”
  11. Victor H. Manzanilla asked, “What is the best way to get your boss to trust you more and advance you through the five levels of delegation?”

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    Last week, we posted the first “Backstage Pass” video, where I took our members on a tour of my home office and my new downtown office. I explained how I carefully designed these environments to maximize my creativity and productivity. I shared my tools and the rationale of why I do what I do.

    Yesterday, we posted the first “Member Makeover.” We picked one member, and then I recorded a screencast of me walking through the various components of their platform and offering suggestions for how they could improve and see immediate results.

    If you are serious about building a platform, please check out Platform University. It’s only $25.00 a month—less than a dollar a day. I don’t know of a faster, cheaper way to launch your platform or take it to the next level

  3. My next podcast will be on the topic of “How to Overcome the Resistance.” If you have a question on this subject, please leave me a voicemail message. This is a terrific way to cross-promote your blog or website, because I will link to it, just like I did with the callers in this episode.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: What other questions do you have about delegation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://twitter.com/robertkennedy3 Robert Kennedy III

    What are your suggestions for people who are just beginning, who don’t have staff, who don’t have resources to get help just yet, but who are still overwhelmed by the multitude of things to do?  I’m looking through the books and resources mentioned.  But wanted to get some follow-up on this if possible.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Did you listen to the podcast? That’s exactly what I address.

      • http://twitter.com/robertkennedy3 Robert Kennedy III

        Thanks Michael. Read the post and responded as I was listening. ;-). A little quick on the draw here.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          No problem. Thanks.

  • Mike Buwalda

    Michael, I am an estate gift marketing consultant in the Christian nonprofit arena, new to your tribe, and cannot thank you enough for the outstanding, extra mile value you deliver on topics like delegation, productivity, marketing, and leadership. God bless you brother as you serve Him and the people He has put in your path with such excellence. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Mike. Happy to help.

  • Jonathan Harrison

    Michael – you’ve hit another homerun with this podcast!

    I love the way you combine David Allen, Brian Tracy, and Steven Covey in the “To Do List” section.

    I really had to learn the hard way about listing out the “eliminate” category – most never think to put “Check Facebook” on a list so it is really important to consider EVERYTHING we spend our time on, so we can honestly identify time wasters, no matter how “innocent” they seem. (Then stop them!)

    • Jim Martin

      You are right. It is interesting just how much time can be eaten away by seemingly small distractions.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    When you start delegating with simple volunteers and friends willing to help, you begin to build a staff.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Besides, it’s so much more fun to work on a team. :)

  • Kent Faver

    A little off topic Michael – I really, really enjoyed your interview with Brian Hardin on his website.  I discovered Daily Audio Bible during Lent last year and it has been one of the bigger blessings in my life since then, and it really enhances my morning meditations.  Thanks for the time you gave in that interview – I was blessed.   I enjoyed this podcast too!

  • Dustin Dauenhauer

    I would like to see you write an ebook on this topic. I feel like this principle of delegation is vital to success but so few. ( myself included)understand how to really implement it in our lives effectively. Another question I feel hasn’t been asked is how do you prepare your project to be ready to hand over to someone else? What does effective communication in delegating look like? Perhaps these questions could be answered on another podcast.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Great question, Dustin.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        That is a great question. I will consider a post on this. I am actually working on an e-book on working with a virtual assistant.

  • http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/ Dallon Christensen

    Fantastic content on this podcast! Like many, I’m struggling with being the chief cook and bottle washer. I’ve been able to partner with some others as you’ve mentioned, and it was a life saver for me.

    As a finance person, I’m naturally inclined to save money. However, you have to look at the revenue you generate from partnering with others. For example, I hired someone to produce and edit the videos I created for a downloadable course. If one person buys this course because of the work he did, I more than paid for that service. The key is to think of this more as an investment than as an expense. I know that’s hard to do in startup mode, especially for those of us without a lot of money to begin. However, it’s absolutely essential to have that mindset.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      You’re absolutely right. It’s an investment, not merely an expense.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great episode and crazy to think of how many you’ve done so far! I was also surprised to hear how many people that are on your “team.” 

    These were some great tips. For me it’s hard to “let go” I feel like I have to be involved in every part of the process but I realize that doesn’t scale. Especially as my Platform gets bigger.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You’re right, Kimanzi. It doesn’t scale.

  • http://www.latinosbehindthelens.com/about/ Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

    Wonderful podcast. But I need to listen to Part 1.

    I had no clue that delegation could be such a solutions provider. I knew that solo — I could not scale but simply never realized the power of delegation. Especially, the variable cost alternatives.

    BTW, I know you are a user NozBe but check out Azendoo it’s in the Evernote Trunk.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      You’re missing out if you missed the first part. Lots of great information to get you on the part of delegating.

  • http://chrismparker.com/ Chris M Parker

    Thank you Michael.  I have found when People make such a big deal about saying NO.   In reality when one says YES to everything AND are unable to do everything they said YES to they silently said NO. (that which didn’t get done)  I have found the great Leaders say NO confidently because they can say YES with absolute conviction of delivering on their word.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom on investing time on what we do best and outsourcing the rest.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Chris, I agree that saying “No” is tough and that it is a complimentary skill with delegating. This is a tough lesson for me to keep in mind myself – thanks for the reminder!

  • http://johnschb.com David Johns

    Michael, can you elaborate more on how you “file everything in evernote”

    Do you file your working documents in evernote also?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I don’t try to replicate my Mac OS X filing system. You might want to have a look at my posts on Evernote. I have 12 of them. Here’s an index.

  • http://about.me/revchadbrooks chadbrooks

    I am really excited about this episode. I listened to part 1 last night on a long drive. I am halfway between the two…I have a few volunteers but no paid staff to delegate.

    Thanks for hitting these places of deep development. I will listen tonight while I am out in my shop.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chad. I’m glad you are enjoying these.

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    I’ve worked in situations where leaders couldn’t/wouldn’t delegate. They became the martyr for a cause no one else believed in. Shared leadership is powerful. Thanks, Michael. 

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Very true Terry. Did you see anyone try to reach out to those leaders who wouldn’t or couldn’t delegate?

      • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

        Unfortunately, no. The unwillingness to delegate was accompanied by a collective arrogance within the leadership team. There was (and still is) a “us versus them” environment that treats everyone outside the leadership team like factory workers. The saddest part of the whole thing is that the organization is a church. Those of us who saw what was happening and approached the leaders with concerns were disposed of quickly. That creates more of a fear culture in which no one else dares say anything.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          That’s rough Terry. Hopefully the leaders in the church learn that something needs to be done before the church is gone.

  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    Thank you for fielding my question, Michael. Your answer was very helpful, and the links provided were great. 

    • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

      Julie, your question was what I would have asked.  I’m glad you asked it!  Michael’s answer is very encouraging, as I have considered doing this with our oldest child (12 years old now), and our younger two children when they are ready.  I agree with Michael that it is a great opportunity to build into them, and help them develop some practical skills, while also meeting some of the needs in the business which feeds our family.  I’ll be looking into the Jonas Family, and their Goat Milk business as well.  Great question and great answer!

      • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

        I agree, Michael’s answer was great. I appreciate how he went beyond his own experience to pull in that of another family. The Jonas site looks great. I need to find the time to listen to some of their podcasts, but I think the content will be very helpful. 

        I wish I would have started engaging my children more in my business a few years ago when my oldest was still at home. But it will be helpful now with the others. 

        Twelve is a perfect time to begin, Jackie. I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience for you and your children. Have fun with it!

        • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

          Thanks Julie!  And thanks for adding value to this episode with a great question!

    • Jim Martin

      Julie, that was an important question that you asked.  I suspect that many listeners could identify with you.  Thanks!

      • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

        Thank you, Jim. I believe more of us are in the situation where we can’t hire outside help but need help nonetheless. I love the idea of “hiring” my children and educating them at the same time. Now if I only homeschooled. :)

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  • http://www.emilykeener.com/ Jenny Keener

    Thank you for recommending “The Busy Mom’s Survival Guide”! I am a homeschooling mom of 3. I also help to run my father’s business (blessed to be on the marketing side of things, so I can work primarily from home) and I also manage my daughter’s budding music career. 
    My children all work for me in the family business and I’m helping my daughter learn to run her own business affairs in the music world (we’re actually learning together, as I have no previous experience) and it can be overwhelming wondering if I’m doing “school” right. I have always believed that learning happens much more effectively outside the typical school environment, but I’m often plagued by doubt.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       That’s so cool Michael was able to connect with that resource. Hope it helps you succeed even more!

  • http://toomanymeds.com/ Alex Barker

    I really like your idea for interns Michael! 
    I’m a pharmacy professor and thought before of asking a first year student to help with my social media projects. I’ve wondered how to initiate the process. Maybe I should write up a classified ad and post in the student lounge area. Or maybe just send an email to everyone in the class….decisions… 
    Has anyone delegated students before? How were they compensated or motivated? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I would talk with the school administration and get their recommendation. Every school is different. Usually, they are looking for businesses that are willing to hire interns. Often, it is an uncompensated position.

      • http://toomanymeds.com/ Alex Barker

        Thanks Michael!

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    Michael, your part on getting clear on what you want, praying, and moving in that direction really impacted me as I listened to this yesterday. I’m a visionary person, but I wantl to have all my ducks in a row before pursuing something; often, it’s at the expense of faith. So, your matter-of-fact perspective on faith and vision really was encouraging. I think it flipped something inside of me. Thanks.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great comment Aaron, I think we could all benefit from making more decisions or taking actions in the face of incomplete information – we’re never going to have all the facts all the time. That’s why I love the Nike motto, “Just Do It.”

  • http://www.changevolunteers.org/ Change Volunteer

    The most difficult part is to say no!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Agree – that’s a challenge for me as well. I try to create the habit of saying “No” by doing it for little things – it helps create a momentum toward saying “No” for the bigger things.

  • http://www.confessionsofaparent.com/ Mike Berry

    I’m eternally grateful for wise and knowledgable leaders who poured this concept into me when I began my career many years ago! I wouldn’t be where I am today with out them. I’m also grateful for this podcast. Spot on!  

  • Dan Miller

    Michael – really enjoyed this podcast.  I’m checking out some of your organizational tools now.  You are so right – talent is readily available.  My challenge is taking the time to delegate – rather than just doing it myself.  Ugh!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      You and me both Dan – it seems easier and more time efficient to just do it myself rather than trying to explain it to someone. However, that kind of thinking makes me the “bottle neck” on projects which slows everyone else down.

  • Rick Stender

    Hey Michael,
    Good post. Readers who want to experiment with delegation may want to try FancyHands.  It was developed by a new dad who felt ovewhelmed with all the things on his plate and came up with a solution. It’s a team of assistants who can handle phone calls, reservations, orders, research, etc. You pay a monthly fee for a set number of requests. Check it out: http://www.fancyhands.com/

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Wow. This definitely is worth checking out.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Very cool resource Rick, thanks for sharing it!

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  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    The most important lesson I learned in business school was that “team make better decisions than individuals” – which is at the heart of delegation. 

  • Xihongtina Liu

    Hi Michael, I love your podcast. I am a college student in my final year, I do pretty well in school and as am employee etc, but I find myself always doing a lot of things by myself, some of my team members are not very action oriented, and everyone is always so busy these days … I feel like I should learn to inspire people to act instead of me telling them what to do all the time, is there a quick way to do that?

  • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

    I took 10 of my children skiing yesterday, and we listened to this on the way (it was a 2.5 hour drive to Monarch Mountain). My family so identifies with your time when you brought your daughters on the road with you. I do that constantly with my kids. It was encouraging hearing your personal story.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chris. I appreciate that.

  • Lynn@conundrumadventures.com

    As someone that went from a very large organization, managing a very large group of people to being a partner in a team building company, your podcast really resonated.  I always considered myself a good delegator when I had staff and assumed I didn’t really have the opportunity to delegate anymore as its only my partner and I as full time staff, but your advice is as much about self management as it is about delegating a task to someone else.

  • http://www.conundrumadventures.com/ Lynn@conundrumadventures.com

    As someone that went from a very large organization, managing a very large group of people to being a partner in a team building company, your podcast really resonated. I always considered myself a good delegator when I had staff and assumed I didn’t really have the opportunity to delegate anymore as its only my partner and I as full time staff, but your advice is as much about self management as it is about delegating a task to someone else.Thanks!

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  • bradblackman

    What do you do when you are consistently micromanaged by a particular individual? (And I know I’m not the only one being micromanaged by this person.)

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  • Deborah H. Bateman

    Thanks for the tips and the inspiration to stretch our vision. You encourage us to become the best we can be. You also teach us ways to make our lives easier in the process.