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How to Delegate Wisely

The nature of the task you're delegating, as well as the skills needed to complete that task, determines who you should choose for the delegation. Get-It-Done Guy explains how to choose the right person for the job every time.

By
Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #340

Non-urgent, low-impact tasks create good development opportunities for your employees. Since they aren't urgent, and any problems from doing them wrong are limited, you can give these to an employee as a chance to grow and learn in their spare time. In my first job out of business school, I worked for Intuit and was given the job of establishing Australian distribution for Quicken. I knew nothing about distribution, or about Quicken, but the job was a great way to learn. Since the Australia market was small - too small even to pay for a trip there - the damage I could do was limited. But the experience could become quite valuable to Intuit down the road.

Non-urgent, high-impact tasks grow your people and your organization all at once. A non-urgent, high-impact task is a task that really needs to be done right, or the consequences could echo down the ages. For example, safeguarding the One Ring. If you were Sauron the Dark Lord, you'd really care about having a safe place for your jewelry. You don't necessarily need it this instant, but if you're robbed, or happen to lose your ring in a world-spanning war between good and evil, and you haven't made preparations, it could lead to even more trouble for you down the road.

Give non-urgent, high-impact tasks to your local expert who will make sure they're done right. Or, instead, give them to someone with aspirations to grow and learn. Then apprentice that person to your expert. Since the task is non-urgent, it gives them plenty of learning time. But it's high-impact, so you want them to have the tutelage of a master. That way, by the time they take over, they're competent. Here you forge a mentor/mentee relationship, develop your young 'un, and your expert doesn't need to do all the work themselves. It's win-win-win.

Delegation can free you up, but it's important to delegate wisely. Decide if the task is urgent and whether it's high- or low- impact. For high impact tasks, you always want a guaranteed level of expertise. Use an expert directly for an urgent task, or delegate to someone under the auspices of an expert for a non-urgent task. If the consequences of failure are limited in scope, delegate to a temp for urgent tasks, or to a self-starter, self-learning employee for limited-scope, low-impact tasks.

Melvin is a fine choice for ad writing, since he'll teach himself. But of course, MG should have had a mentor for his inventory task, so he'd know to do things like document his work. 

  • MG: Er, Stever?
  • Stever: Yes, MG?
  • MG: I did document the inventory clean-up. If you look right here, on the shared drive, under Inventory Administrative Documents, there's a document called...
  • Stever: ...Inventory map and guide, by MG...with today's date. Yes, I see. Er, good job MG.

And of course, be careful the person you delegate to doesn't get too big an ego. Right, MG?

I'm Stever Robbins. I help people achieve transformative results in and around their business. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.