Delegating tasks isn’t easy. It’s a tactful decision-making process with the goal of getting a job done thoroughly and efficiently. Many great bosses have learned the best ways to delegate work. Not a boss yet? This skill is vital to help you and your roommate, partner, friend, etc. prioritize better. Erin Falconer, author of HOW TO GET SH*T DONE, shares her top tips.
- Don’t apologize for asking for help or for giving someone else a task.
- Don’t expect people to do things as you have done them or would do them. Did it get done? By someone who isn’t you? You’re good.
- Give clear instructions and expectations. You can’t imagine a job is going to be completed if it’s not clear what the job is. Don’t hope that your roommate will one day empty the dishwasher without you asking. Ask her.
- Get out of the way. Don’t hover as a person does the project or task you’ve asked them to do.
- Don’t take a job back—right away—if it gets screwed up the first time. People need a chance to learn. Don’t use other people’s mistakes as a reason you have to do it yourself.
- Say thank you.
What Not to Outsource
- Things you love
- Things you’re best at
- Things that must be done exactly as you want them done
Outsourcing Takes Practice
Like any new skills, delegating and outsourcing take practice. Using technology to get things off your plate—ordering groceries online, shopping a website for the bikini you’ll need for your vacation next week—is the simplest form of outsourcing. Having an actual human do things for you is a horse of another color. Jane Francisco, editorial director for the lifestyle group at publisher Hearst, talks about her experience working with an assistant when she became editor in chief at Chatelaine magazine. “I learned about outsourcing from my assistant, Sue, the first time I met with her to talk about the job. She came with the job. I was talking to her about her experience and who she’d worked with. Prior to my predecessor, she’d always worked for men. So I said to her, ‘Interesting, how do you feel about working for women versus men?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I’d way rather work for men.’ I asked her why she found it to be better and she said, ‘Because the men actually treat me like a partner and they literally turn everything over to me. They don’t try to micromanage me and they let me do everything. With women, they want to support me.’ And I thought, I get it. You’re worried about asking for another person to do something.”
Even when it’s that person’s job, it can be a learning curve for women to ask someone else to assist them and then allow them to actually do it. Jane recounts all the things Sue said she did for her male employers. “She told me, ‘The men I worked for asked me to do everything from buy gifts for their wives to go to events with them. It made me enjoy my job more, and I felt like I was in charge of something and I felt trusted.’ So I don’t think I did as good a job as the men in her life, but I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to try this. I’m going to try to let you be in charge of me that way.’”
Allowing her assistant to look after the tasks she was skilled at—managing schedules, handling expenses, answering emails—allowed Jane to focus her energy where it belonged, on the pages of the magazine.
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