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The myth that delegation saves time

Eleanor Beaton

If you have ever told yourself, “I’ll just do it myself because it’s so much faster”, then you need to read this.

One of the biggest myths about effective delegation is that it saves time in the short term. In my experience, this is often untrue. Delegating saves time in the LONG TERM. Delegating effectively means YOU have to invest the time to:

  1. Think through exactly what you want
  2. Figure out if there is a specific way in which you want it done
  3. Communicate your plan clearly and specifically — for best results, in writing.

Thus, effective delegation takes serious work on YOUR part especially if you are either delegating to a new team member, delegating a new task, or you’re the type of leader who has a clear vision for how things should be done.

But when you believe the lie that “effective delegation saves time in the short term” — and then it doesn’t…you tell invariably conclude one of the following:

  • I don’t have the right team
  • I knew I was the only one who can do this
  • Why can’t I clone myself
  • Is this really worth it
  • Is my company really scalable 
  • I guess I suck at delegating
  • Etc.

When you delegate effectively, you are making an investment in your business systems. And just like you don’t invest a thousand bucks in a mutual fund and expect it to yield returns overnight, delegation rarely yields results overnight either. The return takes time. 

Here’s an example. This week we are rolling out a resource library for our Incubator program. The library contains more than 250 Excel templates, step-by-step instructions, micro-trainings, and frameworks that complement our core, 5-module curriculum. 

Successfully rolling out a resource library like this is detailed and technical work that integrates customer experience, technology, communication, and program design. I needed to think through:

  • How to introduce the Resource Library, 
  • Where our clients might get stuck accessing the content, 
  • Technical problems they may have logging into the learning portal, 
  • Guidance on how to use the material and — most critically in a high-end group coaching program…
  • How to ensure they don’t get overwhelmed by the material. (Curriculum design is HUGE and we’ll be tackling this in our upcoming Beyond One to One Summit, so I encourage you to get on the waitlist so you can snag one of only 40 tickets we are making available for purchase). 

 It’s important to get a rollout like this right BUT actually doing it is not the best use of my time. Therefore, I had a number of delegation options:

  • Ask a member of my team to “get it done.”
  • Do it myself
  • Layout specifically exactly how I want it done and then ask someone to implement my plan

I used to prefer Option 1 but would often find that I was not totally satisfied with the results. Not because my team was couldn’t do it but because I had clear, specific expectations that I wasn’t making EXPLICIT.

Option 2 sucks, quite frankly. 

Some people would say Option 3 is micro-managing but my reply to this is usually a hard eye roll followed by, You know who appreciated clear and specific detail? Um…Walt Disney. Steve Jobs. Take up your micromanaging convo with them, thank you. 

In this instance, I took 30 minutes and carefully mapped out in specific detail WHAT I wanted done and HOW I wanted it done.  Yes, I took 30 minutes to think through and explain the process I was delegating. 

The delegation overview was 1.5 pages long. The instructions laid out what I wanted our clients to experience, and what I believe needed to happen on the back end. (These are two core components of a Customer Journey that we teach on extensively because systems without a Customer Journey are basically USELESS).

While my overview was intended specifically for THIS project, it actually becomes a template for how we roll out features to clients moving forward. I then did a video walk-through on Loom. Then and only then did I hand it over to our Online Business Manager.

When I debriefed it with my team member afterwards, she said two things:

  1. I appreciate how clear this is. 
  2. I understand what your standards are for rolling out new features in The Incubator.

This is REALLY important because we are rolling out a number of new features and we now have an accepted framework for what our standards of excellence ARE and how to actually do it. I will not need to be as detail-oriented in the future — I will be able to pull an Option 1 because I invested the time to illustrate specifically:

  1. What my standards are and 
  2. How I want things done.

Therefore, effective delegation saves time in the long term, but rarely in the short term. 

I’m sharing this because I have noticed that a fear of being labelled “controlling” or “micromanaging” can really hold women entrepreneurs back from giving clear and specific direction. If you know exactly how you want something done, why pretend that you don’t?

I have also found that people worry if you are as clear and specific as I am advising, you’ll “drown out” contribution from other team members. Please. This type of concern looks good in theory but in practice, it looks like this:

“Leader — dumb yourself down and obscure your clear vision in half-baked instructions so other people feel comfortable sharing their ideas”. LOLOLOLOLOL

If you need to dumb yourself down to make the people around you look good, I humbly submit you do not have the right people around you. Game recognizes game, ladies. 

There are certain instances where, as a leader, you might want to throw out a half-baked idea to get input. But think about it this way: why not ask your team members to build on your BEST EFFORT and BEST WORK. I routinely find that when I make a process as simple and excellent as I can make it, then delegate to a team member, that team member always finds a way to make it even better. 

My job is to create a clear container for work to happen. Their job is to make the work inside that container as amazing as it can possibly be. The quality of the end RESULT is dependent on each of us doing our part well. 

For example, one of the team members responsible for implementing the Resource Library rollout spent a decade teaching gifted kids. She knows how to present information in a simple, clear way. She created an amazing tutorial video showing our clients how to use the Resource Library and it was excellent. Another one of the team members, responsible for creating the Resource Library, carefully logged and organized all 250 of those training materials because she understood that content is meaningless unless it is organized and easily accessible. 

They took my best efforts at providing clear instruction and made them better, thereby producing results far stronger than I could do on my own.

To recap, be clear, be specific. I personally LOVE working side by side with women who know their own minds. 

See more insights about delegation with these related posts:

  1. How I transformed my weekly calendar
  2. How to Ruthlessly prioritize your workday