If you’re like me, you’re a doer: confident in your ability to complete tasks on your own and, as a result, having a bias to do something yourself (seemingly faster, higher confidence in quality of work) rather than delegate (potentially slower, unknown quality of work).
I say “seemingly” and “potentially” because this is a preconception that, with experience, is proven to be a fallacy. As a manager, you’ve inherited and hired a team that is talented and capable; you must delegate more so that you and your company can continue to scale. (You have a different problem altogether if your team isn’t talented and capable.)
Of course, you can’t delegate everything, and managers often struggle to decide when to do so. Here are three questions you can use to evaluate whether or not tasks warrant your personal effort.
Will completing the task have a multiplying effect?
At times it’s necessary for managers to work on tasks that have a narrow sphere of impact, e.g., a single prospect or customer. Generally, however, managers should seek out tasks where completion will have an impact disproportionate to the amount of time invested. For example, creating a sales asset that will be leveraged by the entire team. The more people that will be impacted by the task, the greater its multiplying effect.
Do I know what success looks like for this task?
Ambiguity and uncertainty are parts of life. This is true doubly for working at a startup, and at one point or another everyone will work on a task for which success isn’t clearly defined. That said, if you lack a clear understanding of the success criteria, you may want to spend time working on it yourself until they become clear, after which you can delegate it.
Is there signal value in my working on this task?
Leading by example is an important part of management, especially when it comes to mission, vision, and values. Leading by example also means occasionally taking on tasks solely because of the message that doing so sends to your colleagues or team members. Done judiciously, the optics of a manager rolling up his or her sleeves makes the difficult or seemingly impossible, possible, and inspires people to do their best work.
Delegation is one of the keys to management success. These questions don’t cover every possible scenario, but they’re a useful starting point for making better decisions about how to spend your time.
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