Delegation is hard. There are two ends to the delegation spectrum; those who push work down without enough explicit instructions, oversight or feedback, or those who hoard work, hate to delegate and would prefer to handle everything on their own. The best delegators are somewhere in the middle and as a leader you must not only become an excellent delegator, you must also inspire the people who work for you to delegate themselves.
WHY IS DELEGATION SO HARD?
Good delegators must be great communicators, good teachers, and fantastic at their craft. As lawyers, we are not great teachers. We may lack patience and we have a hard time craving out the time needed to teach, train, and delegate effectively. The billable hour, our own perfectionism, or the fear of becoming replaceable may all contribute to poor delegation. But we can get better and if you want your firm to scale, delegation is a skill worthy of your time and attention.
Delegation lifts up the people around you. It lets them grow. It invests in them and in your relationship. It shows your subordinates that you trust them and respect them. None of us went to school to be teachers, but teachers we are.
WHERE CAN YOU START?
You should be delegating tasks that are not the best use of your time. If there is a task that can be performed by someone else that allows you to operate within your area of strength, that is a task that you should be delegating. In 2011, the ABA Journal published a report criticizing the bar exam as a poor indicator of predicting success as an attorney. It also set out to find out what could predict success as an attorney. It listed 26 characteristics of what makes someone a great lawyer. No single person does all 26 well, the most powerful legal teams will be a balance of the characteristics.
EXERCISE TO DETERMINE YOUR STRENGTHS AND DEVELOP A PLAN FOR DELEGATION.
Take the list of 26 characteristics and rank yourself as where you are today from 1-10 and where you believe you could be 1-10. Next, take a list of tasks you are responsible for and identify each task as “something I love and am great at,” “something I love and am ok at”, or “something I hate and am lousy at.” If you use this exercise across your team, you can clearly see what someone needs to delegate (the “I hate this” column) and who you may be able to delegate to, based on the 26 characteristics rank. Generally speaking, people like what they are good at and struggle with things they hate. By making this a group exercise you can create a combination of teams that perform much better than any individual could.
If you are still stuck, take a look at the Ts. Any task that is a T is suitable for delegation.
Tiny tasks are little things that only take a small amount of time to complete but add up over time. These might be things an assistant could do: scheduling meetings, booking flights for business trips, or deleting spam/marketing emails from your inbox.
Tedious tasks are mindless tasks, such as copying and pasting lead information from your marketing automation tool to your CRM. Tedious tasks require little skill and can be easily delegated.
Time-consuming tasks are opportunities to break work into smaller chunks and delegate portions of the work to others. If you perform a task regularly that takes a lot of time, look for opportunities to hand off segments of that task to others.
Do you have tasks on your plate that you could easily teach someone else to complete? If a task is entirely teachable—if it does not require expertise that only you can provide—it’s a worthwhile candidate for delegation.
Maybe you have no design skills, so it takes you six times as long to create graphics for your blog posts as it would a professional designer. It’s better to delegate that task to someone who’s more equipped to do the work quickly and well.
Maybe it would be better if you handled all of the tasks belonging to a time-sensitive project, but if you won’t have time to complete it doing it all on your own, it’s time to find ways to delegate parts of that task to other members of your team.