A common question we get asked is: what tasks can I give to my new executive assistant? Many people are at the point where they need help, but if you haven’t been used to delegating before, it can be a learning curve. You can wonder how much and when to delegate. Importantly, you want to know it will be “done right! ”When we say “delegate impactfully,” we mean that the delegation of tasks should truly help you to achieve important goals. It shouldn’t be an outlet for “busy work” that doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Here are our thoughts on what it means to delegate successfully and impactfully...
What to consider when delegating tasks
When you’re delegating tasks to an executive assistant, you want the end result to be a positive impact on your business. Many executives find that they get caught up in the “doing,” which means that they have less time available for the tasks that will really move the business forward.With these points in mind, if you want to really see an impact from delegating to an executive assistant, the first tasks should be work that is critical, yet doesn’t require your direct involvement or expertise to move forward.Here is an example. Scheduling meetings is critical. You need to meet with department heads, clients or project stakeholders to update and advance key projects. However, actually organizing those meetings can be a juggling act. Scheduling involves multiple calendars and then there’s the preparation of any meeting materials. It’s simply not a great use of your time.This is exactly the sort of critical task that is impactful to delegate. It is meaningful work that helps you to advance toward key goals, but it’s not something that you need to do yourself. Here’s another example: doing research into prospects or new clients. This is information you need to know to do your job and to serve them effectively, but the research task is absolutely something that can be delegated successfully. Executive assistants are adept researchers and will often be able to tap into networks to find the information you may not have otherwise found. On the flipside, impactful delegation means avoiding any temptation to delegate “busy work” -- tasks that aren’t particularly meaningful and meant to keep someone busy. For example, hearing someone say “hey Jan, have you got something Kelly can do?” means they’re missing out on the potential the employee can bring to their business. Meaningless “work for the sake of work” also hurts morale and a sense of contributing to the team! To address executive assistants specifically, you’re getting a trained professional so it makes sense to make the best use of their skills. Impactful delegation allows them to shine in the skilled tasks they do best at and helps to move the needle for your workload and progress toward goals.
How to delegate successfully
Sometimes people worry about delegating tasks. They are usually concerned that the task should be done “right” and they’re not sure how they can let go themselves. If you’re an experienced leader, you’ve probably become used to delegating, but not always. Sometimes learning to delegate is really the first hurdle. Like many things, it’s easier for some than others! Start with a strong plan for how to delegate successfully. It doesn’t just happen - without a plan you can slip into the pattern of finding work just to keep someone busy. Here are some of our thoughts on planning to delegate:
Identify your key goals
Know exactly what you need to get out of delegating. Maybe it’s that you need to be able to advance a certain project, or maybe you simply need more time to get critical work done on something else. Once you’ve identified your goals, you can pick out the tasks that will help to get you closer to achieving them. It can help to look at the various steps of a project and identify what the critical tasks are. Those that you don’t absolutely have to do are good choices to delegate. Outside of specific projects, you could make a list of every task that you do; daily, weekly, monthly and so on. For each task ask “is this really necessary?” and “do I have to be the one to do this?” If the answers are yes to the first question and no to the second, then those are good delegation tasks.
Set clear expectations
Once you’ve had an executive assistant for a while, you tend to get into a rhythm where your assistant understands you and can often preempt your needs. This doesn’t happen without clear expectations being set early, though. Executive assistants are very skilled, but they’re not clairvoyant. Part of effective delegation is ensuring that they understand the goals and expectations of the project or task. This gives them the necessary context to do the job well and to anticipate anything you might not have thought of.
Have a process
Processes help with consistency. If you have very particular needs or views on how something should be done, it helps you to delegate if you’ve got a documented process.If you don’t have a clear process already, this is something that an executive assistant can help to develop. This is important because it means someone else who may need to step in could run with the process you or your EA have already developed.
Giving feedback to improve results
One of the hallmarks of delegating impactfully and effectively is to give feedback. It’s possibly one of the most critical phases of delegation because feedback affects how you work together and how the task is done in the future. Quite simply, if you’ve clearly set expectations for a task or project, feedback helps to guide the executive assistant on how well they’ve met your expectations. (Or from your own perspective, this can be a time to reflect on whether you did set clear expectations in the first place).Effective feedback should be specific and timely. It should highlight exactly what the executive assistant did well or what could be done better next time. Remember, executive assistants are very open to constructive feedback. Their aim is to work with you like a well-oiled machine. At the same time, it can be helpful if you are also open to receiving feedback. An executive assistant might want to let you know that something was unclear, or perhaps was open to interpretation. The more you communicate openly with one another, the better you can work together and delegation can continue successfully!
Effective delegation is about delegating with impact. That means that you’ll get the most from delegating when the tasks you choose to pass on are critical for advancing you toward key goals. It can be tricky, or even nerve-wracking if you’re new to delegation, but when you’re working with an executive assistant, you have a trusted professional on your side. You can expect that your EA is highly skilled and can manage tasks effectively beyond “busy work.” Lastly, if you need help to move forward, learning to delegate well is an important skill to master. Successful people tend to know when they need help and how to leverage that help for the best results.