One of the best things you will ever do for your brand or business is to establish your strengths and lean into them. In fact, that may be why you started in the first place – that vision of doing what you want, being your own boss, owning your own time. But until you learn to (and are able to) delegate, you’ll find that you are your own boss, employees, maintenance staff, etc….
When you stop trying to own your own time and find yourself scrambling just to find any time for you at all, it’s time to delegate.
I’ve been on both sides of this frustrating coin. When I managed teams of writers, I had to learn to let go of many of the tasks I’d rather hang onto for dear life. When I shifted toward VA, editing, and blog management, I had to help my clients learn to let go…which sometimes looks like prying it out of their cold, dead-from-overwork fingers.
From both perspectives, I have repeatedly seen the difference between desperate delegation (“I just CANNOT. Here. You do this thing. It’ll be fine.”) and effective delegation (“Here’s the task, what it should look like, and my process.”). I’ll give you a moment to decide which you’d rather be. Got it? Good. Here we go.
Tips for Effective Delegation
It’s hard to let things go, especially when you’ve built it from the ground up. But once you have someone willing to help, it’s worthwhile to do it right. There are a few things I’ve picked up over the years that might help.
- Find someone you can trust. Use your network to get recommendations to find your virtual assistant, editor, or support staff member. If you can’t find someone within your network, ask for references from your potential contractor and then call them. Talk about how they worked together, what strengths and weaknesses they have, any issues there might have been, whether or why the contract ended. This can help you know more about the working relationship you’re starting and give you some insight as to how to approach it.
- Find someone who fills the gaps. Don’t just grab for a random support staff person. For truly effective delegation, you need to identify the areas where you are lacking. If you spend hours on a blog post or wrack your brain over keeping the books, you’ll need someone who can be a writer or someone who is an accountant.Virtual Assistants tends to be multifaceted, but they will have individual strengths and weaknesses, too. Pinpoint your own, identify theirs, and find someone who will become a good member of your team.
- Start with the “hit by a bus” theory. The first week or two – or more, depending on the extent of your operation – can be tricky. Okay, super challenging. Okay, okay – they can be a nightmare. But that’s only IF you are unprepared. Start operating under the “hit by a bus” theory right now. To make it a bit less morbid, let’s say that “your computer” were to be hit by a bus tomorrow and completely trashed. In other words, you or someone on your team is knocked completely out of the picture. Do you have enough documentation and processes in place that your operation could continue running smoothly? Usually, the answer is NO, and that’s why bringing someone new on is so much of a pain. We try to dump our brains into this brand new person’s lap and hope they can sort it all out. Instead, document your processes. Step by step instructions. Keep things in shared Dropbox or Google files. Walk through procedures together. Keep some notes on file describing your voice and target market. Then, when you bring support staff on, effective delegation looks like pulling the right files, having a couple of phonecalls, and watching them go.
- Label files consistently. But seriously, you guys. I don’t want to see any of this:
Draft post mine
Draft post mine2
Untitled3 Stop it right now.Project-Specific Title-Date-PersonWhoTouchedItLast
- Communicate regularly. My ‘90s babies will understand this reference, and everyone else will have to get lost in YouTube for awhile:
Pinky and the Brain (brain brainbrain) started every night in the same way. Pinky asked what they were going to do, and Brain told him. I always interpreted it as Pinky being dumb and Brain being annoyed: The same thing we do every night, Pinky…try to take over the world!
But there are two takeaways here:
- Pinky was clearly not a mindreader (as each episode reminded us…are you thinking what I’m thinking?) so he asked anyway.
- Brain might have been annoyed, but he answered anyway.
Keep your lines of communication open with your VA or support staff, because specific delegation is effective delegation. They can’t read your mind. Obviously, there will be some routine in place that will keep everything running with relative predictability, but maybe Pinky just needed to know HOW they were going to take over the world that night! Has anyone ever thought about that?! NO you just think about yourselves!
…Sorry. Got a bit carried away. I miss those guys.
Back to the actual metaphor here – check in with your VA or support staff. Have a regular meeting, if that helps. If you are unhappy with something, don’t just fix it. Talk about it. Tell them how they can do better. It’s no good to hire someone just to redo their work.
It’s okay to ask for help. It’s best to ask for specific help.
- Don’t over (or under) think it. What I mean by this is that our brains get in the way of productivity far too often. We spend weeks and months buried in our work convinced that it’s going to be harder to bring someone on board than it is to just do it, so we never do. But also, we never get out from under that pile.Or, maybe we do hire someone, but we don’t give much thought as to how to make that relationship successful. So we throw a bunch of half-considered tasks at them and then get frustrated when it doesn’t pan out well.
There’s something about the entrepreneur that screams “control freak” and “I want to do it all.” I get it. But you just can’t. Believe me, it IS worth trading a week or two of awkwardness in order to free yourself up to do what you love. You are the one with the vision and the big picture for your brand. It can’t move forward if you’re mired down in the day to day.
But when you do hire someone, take the time to get to know them, deliver your processes and expectations in a clear, organized way, and keep lines of communication open. Your support staff is (probably) not comprised of robots. And, let’s be honest, even if they were, you’d have to program them anyway. Might as well do it right.