Do you have a long-term delegation strategy? This is the secret to moving more into “the zone” and getting out of those activities you don’t enjoy or don’t do well.
Recently, I recorded two podcasts on the subject of delegation. The first dealt with the principles of delegation. The second suggested how you might delegate even if you don’t have a staff.
In these podcasts I suggested the primary reason to delegate is that non-delegation doesn’t scale. It is not sustainable. This is why so many people feel overworked, overwhelmed, and burned out.
But there is an even more important reason to delegate:
To enable you to focus on what you do best in order to maximize your impact.
I touched on this at the end of the first podcast, but I want to elaborate here. I think this is something we all need to think through as leaders if we are going to be effective in our roles.
Here’s the way I think about it. I do some things well and some things not so well. The same is true for you. If you try to be the jack of all trades, you will likely be master of none.
When I am operating in my strengths zone, I am happy and productive. The quality of my work goes up, and I increase my impact. Equally important, I leave space for my team members to make their greatest contributions.
Conversely, when I don’t do this, I am stressed and unproductive. I run out of margin. As a result, the quality of my work suffers. And, I deprive others of making their best contributions. They don’t get the opportunity to express their strengths.
If we are going to stay focused and become even more effective, we have to have a delegation strategy. Mine consists of three components.
- Identify your strengths. My greatest strengths are in writing, speaking, and being the spokesperson for my brand. It is, frankly, a very narrow range of activities. What are your strengths? If you had to limit these to two or three, what would they be?
- Offload everything else. This can’t usually happen immediately. It’s taken me almost two years, and I am still not done.When I started my entrepreneurial adventure I was devoting more than half my available work hours to administrative activities. This included things like:
- Reading and responding to e-mail
- Managing my calendar
- Booking appointments
- Making travel arrangements
- Paying the bills
- Collecting money
- Negotiating contracts
- Writing sales copy
- Researching vendors
- Designing marketing materials
And the list goes on. The point is I was doing a lot of stuff others could have done and done them better than I could.
Once I realized this, I began slowly hiring part-time assistants to help me. I started by giving up the stuff either I wasn’t good at or didn’t enjoy doing.
Each time I confronted a task, I asked, Is this something someone else can do or is it something only I can do?
As a result of this process, I have hired the following people in roughly this order:
- A web developer to handle all the technical details of my blog, set up new modules I wanted to add (e.g., e-commerce), and to write custom code for components we couldn’t find elsewhere.
- A virtual executive assistant to read and filter e-mail, manage my calendar and schedule appointments, make my travel arrangements, and handle other projects as assigned.
- A bookkeeper to pay bills, invoice clients, process payments, balance accounts, and provide various financial reports. This person also handles all my personal finances.
- A booking agent to pitch me to event planners, answer questions related to my speaking, negotiate speaking fees and travel reimbursements, and collect the money.
- Managers (in my case, I have two) to manage my career, advise me on strategy, and oversee everyone and everything else.
- A graphic designer to create the graphics we use for new products and marketing materials.
This year, I have added some additional team members to support Platform University, including an overall project director, a video producer, and a customer support rep.
Interestingly, not one of these people is a paid employee. They are all independent contractors with other clients. Some work a few hours a week; some up to 20. But nobody is full-time, other than me.
If you were going to add people, who would you add first? second? and so on? Personally, I don’t think the resources show up until you get clear on what you need. (You might want to re-read that sentence again.)
- Get even more focused. Once I had the basic positions in place, I started asking myself, Are there aspects of my strengths that could be delegated to others? As I said, writing, speaking, and being the spokesperson for my brand are my strengths. But are there aspects of these activities others could do, so I can focus on those aspects only I can do.I started by deconstructing my creative process. I discovered each project, whether it’s a blog post, a podcast, a book, a speech, a video segment, or a screencast, has four phases:
- Phase 1: Researching the content
- Phase 2: Creating the content
- Phase 3: Packaging the content
- Phase 4: Promoting the content
For me, the most obvious candidate for delegation was Phase #3. For a podcast, for example, packaging involves editing and “sweeting” the audio, generating the final audio file, adding the MP3 tags, uploading the file to my media server, creating the show notes (i.e., a blog post), and scheduling the post.
I can do all this, of course—in fact, I did it all for the first year—but so can many other people. The problem is I could use this time for researching and creating new content. Packaging is not the best and highest use of my strengths.
As a result, in January I hired a podcast producer. Now I simply upload the recorded but unedited files to Dropbox, and he takes it from there. This has saved me roughly a half a day a week. It’s one of the best decisions I have made.
Similarly, I just adopted the same basic model for my blog posts. I focus on research and creation of the content. Once I have finished writing my post in ByWord, I save it and upload it to Dropbox. My editor takes it from there.
She copy-edits and proof-reads the post, inserts related links, finds a relevant photo, formats the HTML, adds the metadata, optimizes the post for SEO, and schedules it for publication.
I am still handling the promotion of my content (i.e., Phase 4 above) via my social media channels, but I plan to delegate this sometime this year as well. Eventually, I also want to delegate some portion of the research (i.e., Phase 1).
Again, the point is to allow me to achieve a narrower field of focus, so I can be more productive and happy doing what I do best and adding the most value possible.
What about you? How could you get even more focused? You might want to deconstruct your strengths into their logical phases or components. Are their aspects of your strengths you could eventually delegate?
The one real limitation you and I face in leadership is our time. It is truly a finite resource. We can’t buy or borrow more of it—unless we delegate. To do this effectively, we need a long-term delegation strategy. This will enable us to maximize our strengths and increase our impact.