When most people hear the word delegation, they think of “handing off” tasks to someone else. But there’s so much more to delegation than that! When done properly, delegation keeps your office running smoothly. It allows everyone to function as a team, capitalizing on individual strengths, duties, and time management skills.
For delegation to be effective, though, you need procedures! Procedures prevent you from wasting time trying to teach someone how to do the task you need them to do. If you’re inundated with work, you can pass along the task (and the procedure for doing it), and use your time more productively while still remaining confident that the delegated task will get done correctly.
Here are three covert ways delegation and procedures can help make your life, and the lives of your team members, easier.
Overcome Mission Creep
Have you ever been asked to take on a task outside of your job duties as a favor to someone, and then realized that they’re never going to take that task back? Perhaps you covered for someone once, and somehow part of their job got transferred to your plate.
This is known as “mission creep” — performing duties that someone else is fully capable of, but that you’ve been doing for so long that no one (even you) remembers that it’s not your job. Procedures can help you end this cycle once and for all!
Take a good look at your job description. Do your current duties match up with what you signed on for? Is there someone else in the office who has the time for those tasks? Create procedures for them, and then delegate away!
Examples of these procedures may include:
- How to make the coffee (place it in the breakroom next to the coffee maker)
- How to initiate a video conference for the weekly staff meeting (leave a copy on the conference room table)
- Feeding envelopes or labels through the printer (print out your procedure for this and post it by the printer)
You can do your tasks much more efficiently when you’re not running yourself ragged for other people. While it’s nice to lend a helping hand when needed, procedures cut down on those “asks” from your co-workers that they are more than capable of handling themselves!
Empower Others to Help Themselves
The old adage goes: “Give a person a fish and they’ll eat for a day; teach them to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime.” This applies to delegation and procedures, as well!
Empowering your team through your procedures will ensure that they have the proper know-how to get the job done, rather than constantly asking someone else to do it for them. And in helping themselves, your co-workers are helping you, too.
Examples of these procedures include:
- How to cut checks or create expense reports for team members or departments that you don’t directly support.
- Ordering company apparel through a website or intranet.
- Accessing the intranet, HR site, or digital employee handbook so your co-workers can find the answers to their own questions.
- Proofreading/style guide procedures to make it easier for employees to edit their own work.
Most of the time, you’ll find that your co-workers are willing to learn to do these things themselves. They won’t look at it as extra work; instead, they’ll see it as a way to do their job faster and more efficiently!
Formulate a Back-Up Plan
Delegation is instrumental in creating your back up plan for coverage. Have you ever had to deal with an urgent request from your executive while still trying to juggle all of your normal work? If you have documented procedures, you don’t have to try to be in two places at once – you can simply ask for help. And those you ask for help have a safety net to fall back on when you have procedures documented for their reference. It makes it a lot easier to get help when you are prepared.
Examples of these procedures include:
- How to cover phones and front desk duties.
- How to prepare and set-up for a meeting (catering, conference room preparation, dial-in instructions for teleconferences or video conferences, etc.).
- How to process and sort mail or packages.
- How to order supplies.
- How to handle travel arrangements for your executive or other senior officers.
There is a tremendous amount of relief that comes with knowing you can have someone perform some of your regular duties if you’re pulled away due to a more urgent matter!
Why Don’t People Delegate More Often?
I’ve found the reason is twofold. First, people worry that the task won’t get done correctly. They also think the other person might do the job better than them.
To address the first concern: If your procedures are on point, they’ve been thoroughly tested. The person helping you knows they exist and how to use them, so everything should go according to plan. If there is a glitch somewhere, procedures make it easy to see where things broke down and react accordingly – often by clarifying the procedure for the next person or, in some cases, rewriting the procedure altogether.
As for the second concern, my response is usually “So what?” Does it really matter who is “better” at the task, as long as the task is getting done correctly? Everyone has their own specific strengths and weaknesses. Give credit where credit is due, say thank you, and move on. It’s one less task on your plate, which will free you up to do more of the things you’re amazing at doing. Everyone wins!
For instance, recently a member of our team, Michelle, was out on maternity leave for several weeks. In preparation for her departure, we began to shift duties for our weekly newsletter assembly to another team member, Stephanie. Stephanie was just as efficient as Michelle, and she was able to get the materials ready sooner because her workload was typically lighter than Michelle’s.
When Michelle returned from leave, Stephanie continued to assemble the weekly newsletters so Michelle could focus on more strategic projects.
No one looked at it as something being taken away from Michelle. Instead, it was a way to make better use of everyone’s strengths and availability for the maximum benefit of the company and team goals.
We don’t always welcome a change to how we are asked to work. However, those changes can give us insights we might not have if we kept doing things the same way we’ve always done them.
Delegation is more than just passing the work around. It requires strategies, collaboration, cooperation, and, of course, procedures! Documented procedures allow you and your team to delegate tasks under any condition and ensure that the office continues to function like a well-oiled machine!
© 2016 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.