Should You Delegate That? A Comprehensive Guide
Any time you can delegate work for less total cost than you'd spend doing it yourself, pull the trigger.
This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Strategic Management, a new book containing insights from more than 20 contributors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.
Delegating tasks is an important, yet tricky, art in the realm of entrepreneurship. It’s a way to lighten your workload and distribute tasks among your employees and partners, and if you do it right, you’ll end up more productive as an organization -- as well as be less stressed on a personal level.
Unfortunately, though, most entrepreneurs struggle to get delegating right. They don’t know when to do it or how to do it, and they end up either never delegating at all or delegating so ineffectively that they wind up with more on their plates than when they started.
So, what should you do when you're faced with the ultimate dilemma: “Should I delegate that?” Here are the steps to take to answer that question.
Recognize your own biases.
Your first job is to recognize any internal biases that may be affecting your decision to delegate:
- Control. Many entrepreneurs see their business as “their baby,” and want to do everything they can for the business. Unfortunately, this makes many entrepreneurs reluctant -- or even stubborn -- about delegating their responsibilities. If this is you, you need to learn to let go of control.
- Frugality. It’s tempting, especially when yours is a bootstrapped startup, to try to minimize costs as much as possible. Accordingly, you may avoid new hires or freelancers; however, as you’ll see, this too, has a cost associated with it.
- Bothers. Maybe you’re trying to be a kind boss and don’t want to increase the workloads of others. But, remember, it’s your job to assign priorities, and depending on the structure of your business, your subordinates can likely delegate further.
Determine the value of your time.
The key first step in deciding whether to delegate something is determining the value of your time. How much do you make per hour, as a consulting rate? If you don’t charge a consulting rate, how much do you imagine yourself making at a similar position somewhere else?
Once you have a rough idea how much you should be making per hour, you’ll know the relative “value of your time,” which you can use to make more effective delegating decisions.
Categorize needed tasks as short-term and long-term responsibilities.
Next, you’ll need to determine whether the challenge you’re facing consists of short-term or long-term responsibilities. For example, if your business needs a new internet provider, you probably won’t want to make another switch for a long time. That makes this a short-term responsibility, so whoever you delegate this task to will only have to research companies like Verizon and AT&T once.
However, if you’re trying to manage a repair at a secondary property, know that you’ll likely face a similar issue in the near future, so settle on a longer-term solution, such as a new hire or a property-management service to take over. If the cost to delegate to an outside source is still less than your hourly rate, hire that source.
Determine your priorities.
Of course, you’ll also have to determine your priorities as an entrepreneur. What do you currently have on your plate? Is there a major project that only you can work on at the top of the list? If so, consider any other tasks on your agenda as secondary and worthy of being delegated. However, if all your priorities are balanced, you may not need to consider delegating at all.
Decide your staff availability.
You’ll need to think about who’s available to take over your work, as well. Who on your team has the bandwidth to take over some of your work, and who is also making a lower relative hourly rate than you? If nobody on your team currently meets those criteria, think about hiring a freelancer from a service like Upwork, or attempt to find a new hire on a site like Monster to fill the void.
Create a quick checklist.
If these considerations are too abstract for you, here’s a quick checklist to run down if you’re considering delegating a task:
- Is your task list too long? Do you have too much to do? Check your biases and stresses here, and if the answer is yes, continue.
- Can this be delegated right now? If you can delegate a particular task to someone who knows how to do it, excellent. That’s one less thing to worry about.
- Can this be delegated cost effectively? If you delegate the task to an employee, freelancer or management service, will it cost less than it would if you were the one taking care of it? Will you pay less than your relative hourly rate? If so, delegating it is worth it.
- Will this be a problem again; and if so, is it a problem worth preventing? If nobody knows how to do the necessary tasks, and your training or hiring will cost more than your hourly rate, consider the future value that training will have.
Chances are, if you’re thinking about delegating a task, it’s worth finding a way to do that. You’re busy and your time is valuable, so any time you can delegate work for less total cost than you’d spend doing it yourself, pull the trigger.