Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You’ll find a way, or you’ll find an excuse. Do these sayings sound familiar? While they are great doses of reality, finding enough time in the day to do everything you have to can be overwhelming, especially as a chamber professional.
Getting your work done requires a lot of boundary setting, saying no, and excelling in the art of delegation. If you don’t know how to delegate, or you feel uncomfortable doing so, we’re here to help.
What Does Delegation Mean?
This may seem like a funny question but it’s a valid one for chamber pros who are well-known for dedication and hard work. If you think no one can perform your chamber duties the way you can, you may find it incredibly hard to delegate.
If you’re exacting in your expectations, delegation will be a chore. But if you want to maintain any kind of work/life balance and if you have lofty goals for the chamber and your community, you will need to add the “how to delegate” skill to your toolkit.
According to Wikipedia, delegating “is the assignment of authority to another person to carry out specific activities. It is the process of distributing and entrusting work to another person, and therefore one of the core concepts of management leadership.”
Why Many Chamber Professionals Don’t Delegate
Almost everyone knows how to delegate, but there are several reasons we hesitate to do it. These include:
- Having a possessive mindset when it comes to your responsibilities. You may see them as yours and not duties of the chamber. You may feel that by asking someone to do those activities you are asking them to do your work.
- Worrying that it will not be done to your standards.
- Wondering if you can find someone to fill your shoes.
- Worrying that the person you find to help you will take your place or do it better than you could.
- Thinking you failed in your current position because you need help.
- Losing control of the activity or project.
- Thinking it would be quicker to do it yourself than to give someone else the instructions to perform the duty requested.
Leadership expert Gordon Tredgold reinforces these “why you don’ts” with these five “why you shoulds.”
How to Delegate Successfully
Delegating is not dropping a project on someone and running out the door before they completely understand what is being asked of them. Successful delegation occurs in a proactive mode, not a reactive one. If something must be delegated in an emergency because it’s needed immediately, you run the risk of making a bad delegation decision. On the other hand, if you are deliberate in your thoughts and you select the right person for the job, delegation can be rewarding and highly satisfying for everyone.
Delegation is a release for you to unburden yourself, but it’s also an opportunity for the people you are delegating to. Skilled delegation belongs in all leaders’ toolkits because no one can do it all alone.
It’s also beneficial for the chamber as it brings a new set of eyes and way of doing things to a task or activity. You can also delegate a task when you need a different skill set.
For instance, if you have a volunteer with strong experience in social media who loves connecting with your chamber audience, why not delegate those activities to them? Delegation not only makes you a better leader because it expands your bandwidth, but it’s also good for those around you.
Delegation is strongly dependent on your ability to do several things:
- Communicate the task effectively
- Motivate the person or group who will be completing it
- Understand individual preferences and differences.
Successful delegation also requires you to select the appropriate employee for the job. Delegation does not go well when people are in a hurry, choose reactively among “who is left or available,” and don’t communicate the why behind the project or the expectations.
Knowing What to Delegate
Knowing how to delegate isn’t just about getting rid of something you don’t feel like doing or don’t have the time to do. It’s also knowing what’s best to delegate and what to keep.
Ask yourself the following questions about the task you’re considering delegating.
- Is this a reoccurring task or do I want this person to handle this for me one time only?
- Does this person have the necessary skills to perform this task?
- Is this task a major deliverable in what I do for the chamber?
- Does this task provide an opportunity for someone to grow or become better connected to the chamber?
- Do I have enough time to communicate my expectations and the necessary information for this person to be successful in the completion of this task?
If you are continually busy, the most effective strategy is to delegate repeating tasks. Sure, there are times when you’re going on vacation, and you want someone to complete something for you on that day. But if the purpose behind delegation is to free up your time for other things, it’s best to find something in your schedule that’s a reoccurring task to delegate.
Don’t give a task to someone out of desperation. If you don’t think it’s within their core competencies to handle it, a sense of urgency won’t change that. You want to use delegation for yourself and others. Don’t set someone up to fail.
You also don’t want to delegate something that is a major part of your position in the chamber. For instance, delegating social media posts if you are the social media manager for the chamber is ill-advised. Delegate things that others can do more efficiently and with fewer resources than you. A captain of industry can answer their business phone, but they can also perform tasks that provide a greater return on investment on their time. Choose wisely between what is a good use of your time and what is not.
For that reason, selecting the right individual for the task at hand may also be beneficial to their career growth, especially if it’s a new skill they can learn or responsibility they can undertake. What feels like delegation to you, can feel like a valuable addition to their resume skill set to someone else. They may be able to use that opportunity to gain another skill and additional confidence in the job they’re performing.
Since you want to set someone up for success, you should ensure you have enough time to communicate the task at hand, the deadline, and your expectations behind the project. Failure to do so could mean more work for you, bad feelings or insecurities on their part, and a smear on both of your reputations.
How to Select the Right Person
You may find the thought of finding someone to delegate to as laughable because you feel alone in your endeavors. But the circle of people able to help may be much wider than you think. However, to be a successful delegator you want to ensure you select the right person for the right job.
Analyze Their Skills
Delegating some of your workload doesn’t mean you have to give every activity you don’t have time for to the same person. While managing multiple people handling these delegated tasks may seem difficult at first, the product or service produced is likely to be better when you think about the right person for each activity.
To pinpoint the right person, think about potential fits for one activity initially. For instance, if you find that social media posting and invoicing are taking up too much time in your day, look for a person to handle one task at a time. Don’t hand off your social media activity and invoicing to the same person. Those are very different skills.
Ideally, you’ll find someone who is extraordinary at communication and likes the technology behind social media to do your postings. Again, in the perfect world, your invoicing would be handled by someone who has math skills and attention to detail.
Consider What You Know About Them
In addition to their skills, think about how they work.
- Are they good with deadlines?
- Do they need a lot of hand-holding?
- Are they an independent go getter?
- Will you need to give them parameters of what they can and cannot do?
If you don’t have anyone else on staff, think about other sources you may be able to use to delegate effectively. This could include chamber volunteers, requesting help from your board to get another chamber staff member, or putting a call out to specific members you believe may be a good fit for what you’re trying to delegate.
Sometimes it’s easier to delegate things in your personal life than in your career life. You may not need to delegate as much at the chamber if you can line up people to help you with things at home.
If you can’t think of anyone to help, brainstorm some creative solutions by considering the type of person who would excel with the task in question. If you need attention to detail, for instance, think of everyone in your circle who you would consider extremely detailed and back into it from there.
Align Your Needs with Theirs
When communicating what you would like them to do, make sure your needs align with theirs. Explain why you selected them for this project and what you expect of them. Make sure you are clear as to how much freedom they have within the task.
Do you expect them to work independently or do you want them to check in with you several times a day? Remember, this could be a growth opportunity for them as well so you don’t want to micromanage unless the task requires it. If it does, this might not be the type of task you should be handing to someone else.
If you are delegating something to someone on your staff or in your volunteer network, you are not giving away accountability. In most circumstances, you are still the person responsible for the outcomes. Because of this, you will want to communicate what sort of role you will play in sign-offs. If you don’t communicate this to the person who’s taking over the project or task, they may feel like you’re checking on their work because you don’t trust it.
When you delegate something to someone, you don’t want to be shifting your burden to them. Make sure they understand the opportunity with taking on this task.
Learning how to delegate can be off-putting at first. You may feel like you’ve been entrusted to handle everything. But no leader can do it all indefinitely. As your chamber grows, you will need to leverage the resources that can help you maximize your time and energy.
Delegating is one of those arts that every leader should become adept in. Start today as this is one of those skills where practice makes perfect.