February 7, 2012
Liz published this at 7:39 am
Scaling Up Requires Pushing Down Lower-Level Tasks
In the companies I worked with and for, product development schedules were cyclical, with seriously tight deadlines at certain times of the year and a more relaxing pace when those deadline had been achieved. To even out this ebb and flow of deliverables, we would hire freelancers, off-sire staff, and development groups. Even the most entry-level full-time people were managing and influencing the performance of someone else.
The ability to influence another person’s performance in positive ways affected how quickly employees could grow in their individual roles. The ones who scaled up most quickly were the ones who understood that to take on higher-level tasks, they would have to delegate effectively the lower level tasks that they’d already mastered. They delegated well.
Those who couldn’t scale were often tripped up by five thinking traps.
- We wait too long to get help. The thinking trap is I have to keep my eye on the ball, bite the bullet and get this done. When finally we look up, we still have three weeks worth of work to do and only 1 week to get it done. That thinking risks your reputation and the quality of the work. Solution: Track the time it takes to do one unit of work. Do the math to see how many units you can in a normal day and lower your that projection by 20% — to allow for the unforeseen problem or new project that comes your way. Asking someone to help when you start gives that person time to have a learning curve on the project.
- We think can’t afford the training time. The thinking trap is It will take too much time to teach someone else. That thinking is a great way to stay stuck. Think you’ll have more time 3 days, 3 months, or 3 years from now? Solution: Take a look at what’s currently on your desk. What the work any intelligent person can do? Do it now and in three weeks the person you delegate to will be taking things off your desk.
- We hand over the work too fast — without clearly communicating the scope of the task, expectations, or its importance. The thinking trap is A qualified person will know how to do this. A qualified person can’t know what we don’t tell. Solution: Carve out more time than you need to explain how the piece you’re delegating fits within the bigger project and to let the person know that you’re counting on him or her to do it well. Have the person do a small chunk and review it early to catch any miscommunication.
- We keep doing the work even after we’ve assigned it someone else. The thinking trap is It’s faster if I correct this myself. We have to hand over accountability with the work. If we constantly rewrite and correct their work, the people we delegate to will figure out that no matter what they send we’ll be changing it. Solution: Clearly define and communicate the specifications of the work. Check the work against those specs. Send back the mistakes and missteps for correction. For example, when you hire a professional inputter, take your hands off the keyboard. Check for errors, but let the person make the corrections.
- We think different is wrong. The thinking trap is I need to check and change this work because this person doesn’t have the ___ (dedication, experience, expertise…) It’s delegation critical to understand the difference between wrong and different. Someone else might do the work differently than you, but that difference may not make it wrong. Before you mark a correction, ask yourself Is this truly wrong or just different from how I might do or say it?.
Learning to delegate well is critical to growth. Anything we do ourselves limits the time we have to get to higher-level tasks. Want to scale up? Avoid these five thinking traps and you’ll be better equipped to recognize great candidates who can contribute to your success.
You may wonder how to find great delegation candidates, especially if you have little or no budget to begin. Look to the people around you — those who want experience in what you do. Talk to local colleges to find interns. Ask your friends. Finding the people to delegate to isn’t nearly as hard as learning to delegate well. It will also be easier to attract temporary help, the best VA, or volunteer interns, when you know exactly what the job specs are and how to communicate your needs. the people we delegate to will be more interested in making the same great choices we would make.
What else do you find critical to scaling up?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!