Knowing When To Hand Off.
The key to being able to hand off your work to an assistant so that you can take a much needed, and well earned, vacation is knowing how to be a good delegator. Delegation is about choice. It’s up to you to choose which items on your list you can hand off to someone who you trust to do the work capably. But this can be a tricky balancing act: over delegation can lead to your assistant being swamped and unable to complete any tasks, and under delegation can just lead to more stress for you as you juggle more and more projects.
Time for School.
One of your roles as a client or boss is teaching your assistant how to perform those routine, but important, tasks that you’ll need them to take care of on a regular basis. They need to know which questions to ask you so that they can get a grip on what it is you’re asking. Without the right tools, they’ll just be stabbing in the dark, which is no way to learn a new skill. All of which is to say avoid thinking that you’ve too much on your plate to be able to delegate. If that’s the case, then you seriously need to scale back to give you a small amount of time to get your assistant up to speed. Otherwise, what’s the point of having an assistant?
The First Step Is...
Deciding that you’re too crucial to the process of your work, and thus not delegating enough to your assistant, is a little like deciding “Oh I definitely can’t throw away this box of old magazines – I might need them one day!” That’s right: you’re a delegation hoarder. One thing to keep an eye on is the behavior and work of your assistant. Are they working fairly regular hours while you pull all-nighters? Do they consistently say things like, “Let me know if there’s anything I can help with?” If so, you might be holding on to more than you need to and could probably afford to hand some things over to them. Listen for those opportunities and then maybe reply with, “Actually, here’s what I’m working on. I’m not sure if you could help or not.” You don’t really even have to know how you’re going to delegate the project but starting the conversation is a big step in the right direction.
Once you’re starting to get comfortable with delegation, it’s important to get away from treating it as another pesky to-do item on your daily list. Instead, whenever you’re formulating a plan of attack for any new project, factor in the time it will take to delegate. And remember: at first, you’ll have to allot time to teaching your assistant what to do. But the good news is that teaching time will become less and less the more you delegate. And ask your assistant to keep you honest; let them know it’s ok for them to prod you (slightly) whenever they might notice that you haven’t delegated something in a while, or haven’t delegated something that they know they can help with.
Perhaps the toughest part of this whole delegation process is knowing when to let your assistant make mistakes. As we all know, mistakes make up a significant percentage of any learning process and it really is your responsibility to let some of them happen. Now, obviously, that’s not to say that, should you see disaster looming, you shouldn’t step in but if you know a smaller error has been made by your assistant and you know you can correct it later and use it as a teaching example, that’s the best course to take. For your assistant, it’s better to get a feel for what they think the process is, and the retroactively course correct, rather than feeling like they’re being micro-managed the whole time, thus depriving them of that feel for the flow.
It Takes Two.
Like any relationship, with its ups and downs, delegation takes honesty and trust for it to become and effective and vital tool in your toolbox. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you ever decided to hoard all your work, instead of handing it off to your wonderful assistant!