Productivity + Delegation

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Productivity + Delegation

Productivity guru Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project, once spent 10 days in complete isolation to study how social interactions impact productivity. He followed that by watching 72 hours of TED talks in one week to explore how overloading the mind translates into retention, learning, and of course, productivity. From these and many other experiments, he recently extracted “Four Common Mistakes Making You Less Productive”.

The mistakes fall into two categories: Are you doing the right thing, and are you doing it in the right way. We can be very productive doing something that isn’t at all necessary or helpful. And we can be doing something very important and valuable, but in an incredibly inefficient and misdirected way. Neither is very productive.

But there is a third factor to consider: Am I the right person to be doing this? A task might be crucial, and you might be doing it very well, but are you the best person to be doing it? Enter the discussion of delegation.

Underlying almost any time management effort is the ability to delegate. It’s the act of pushing aside pride and control and saying one of the following: “I can’t do everything”, “I am not the most skilled at this”, or “Others have valid contributions to make.”

Against these admissions are the common objections: “I need it done this way”, “I need it done now”, “I don’t want to train someone”, or “I don’t want to be responsible for what I can’t control.”

But statements like these can be managerial suicide. While you may get a particular task done your way on your schedule, you have crippled anyone from learning the task and helping you in the future. And you’ve crippled yourself from using other people’s strengths or helping them grow beyond their current capacity.

So how do you delegate properly?

  1. Choose the right person. Can someone do it more efficiently? Can they do it at a lower cost? Will the experience and responsibility be good for them and/or free you up for something better? Remember to look at all these questions simultaneously- often its a combination of factors that best answers the delegation question.
  2. Delegate with the right mindset. Delegation is not dumping. Just because you off-load a task doesn’t mean you’re not still responsible for the outcome or helping the delegatee succeed. On the other hand, delegation is not just
    prescribing that someone do something your way. Delegating the whole task means letting go of some control. To use architectural terms: strive to describe the desired outcome without prescribing the means and methods of achieving that outcome.

Delegation is not, of course, always the right choice. But it can be crucial to a team’s performance, and a path toward even greater success. Be willing to ask if your reluctance to delegate is really tied to verifiable performance issues, or is it simply an issue of pride and control.

In fact, be willing to ask all the questions. For every business problem there is a business task, and every task at least deserves the time it takes to ask the questions: Is this the right task to be doing? Is it being done the right way? And is it being done by the right person?


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