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Delegating work to others

Delegating work to others

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Being too involved can be harmful to both the company and its employees.

DEAR READERS: Wanting to do everything yourself is a natural response for many people who know they know how to complete a task and don't want to "waste time" reaching out for help. I imagine that is especially true in today's pandemic environment, when so many people are working from home.

That, of course, isn't the best approach to problem-solving in the workplace. What are some ways people who want to take on every task can step back and farm out work to peers and subordinates?

Jason Harris, CEO of creative agency Mekanism, understands the dilemma.

"When my three co-founders and I started our advertising agency, Mekanism, we were responsible for everything from stocking the fridge to hiring freelancers to sending invoices to developing and making the work. Needless to say, we became accustomed to building the company ourselves," Harris recalls. "Fifteen years and nearly 200 employees later, one of the most challenging aspects that we had to learn in order to grow was to take a step back, let go and rely on others to take the ball and run with it."

His biggest and simplest piece of advice?

"As hard as it is, especially as a business owner, trust your team and the process. Oftentimes, you will learn from someone else's approach and how they handled the task," Harris says. "Set the vision, and let go. It's important to let your team do the job you hired them for. It helps them grow in their own careers, and it allows you to focus on bigger-picture ideas."

While Harris says it wasn't easy ("Honestly, as a CEO, this took me a few years to really learn," he admits), he says he realized that being too involved was ultimately harmful to both the company and his employees.

"Sometimes the things you leave behind get done in ways that you might want to change, but that is growth: letting things happen and unfold without your involvement and the understanding that even if they get done differently, they still get done."

Harris also offers these tips to anyone who needs advice about how to delegate:

  • Bring your team in early. The first step in delegating is understanding the task at hand. From what I see, many times people hold on to things because they don't know how to delegate tasks to people — so, they need to figure it out themselves. "Bringing your team in early allows you to not only be a better collaborator but also allows you to step out before you become too involved. Set the vision, and walk away — don't keep peeking your head back in."
  • Evaluate everyone's strengths and weaknesses — including your own. "For example, delegating a time-sensitive task to someone on your team who you know has excellent time-management skills will make you feel better about being hands-off," Harris explains. "And if you don't trust your team, you should evaluate whether or not that is one of your own weaknesses — or build a better team."
  • Become a better collaborator. So, what if the task at hand really needs your help? Collaborate, Harris says. "Collaboration is about forging connections with those around you and finding ways to work together towards a common goal," he says. "Put your ego aside, and join forces with your team. Be willing to hear them out, trust their judgement and be interested in their well-being and success — which, by the way, is your success."
  • Trust the process, and be patient. You've handed off the task; now trust that it will get done. "Try not to check in too often or micro-manage," Harris stresses. "This erodes confidence in your employees and causes them to be dependent on you."
  • Show gratitude. This might be obvious, but thanking employees and letting them know you appreciate them goes a long way. "Focus more on what people are doing right versus what they are doing wrong, and they'll build confidence, run with any task you give them and want to put in their best effort."

Harris also shares these "wise words" from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzo as inspiration to anyone struggling with delegating work to their employees: "A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves."

——

Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.

Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.

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