Being a Better Delegator

I struggle with delegating work to other people. This has always been a problem for me, in both my personal and professional life. It’s something I definitely need to work on, now more than ever.

This week the PTA board is officially embarking on a 2.5 month effort that will culminate in a four hour fundraising event. I’ve created a series of Google Sheets in an attempt to organize the effort. One of the sheets has a list of weekly tasks. An adjacent column has the beginnings of a list of names by each item. Already I see my own name next to too many things. I know I need to give some of this work to others, but I’m not sure how to do it, especially when people don’t offer to take it on. Do I indicate the tasks that require point people and wait through any amount of awkward silence until someone steps up? Do I ask someone specifically to do something? And once tasks become the responsibility of others, how do ensure they are getting done? I want to do weekly check-ins, and I’m sure everyone will agree that’s a necessary component of the process, but I’m already worried people won’t get their stuff done. How should I handle the inevitable failure to meet deadlines? How do I hold people accountable, while resisting the urge to take on their work?

I hate having to do something I know I suck at, but in this case it’s absolutely necessary. I can’t put on this event by myself. I need help, and lots of it. I hope I can figure this delegating thing out somehow, before it’s too late.

Are you a good delegator? Any tips for someone who needs to learn?

5 Comments

  1. We use sign up genius. Include all tasks that need to get done, sign yourself up for a few, and send it out to everyone for them to sign up. Everyone gets a choice to sign up for what they want and everyone also gets to see who signed up for what to help keep people accountable.

  2. Ugh, delegating is something I also struggle with. . . but as in your current situation, sometimes it is absolutely necessary, as there are only so many hours in the day/week/month to accomplish all that needs to be done. Plus for circumstances like yours, I think it’s good for others to play an active role, not only to shoulder some of the burden I would otherwise bear, but also to promote engagement.

    As I am not particularly good at delegating myself, I have no tips to offer, but I wish you the best of luck!

  3. Yeah, that’s tough. My experience is though that people are grateful to someone who does the meta work of figuring out what needs to be done and are then happy to do actual things, especially when they receive clear, defined tasks. However, I’ve only dealt with this with people who are doing these things for their own hobby group, i.e., for themselves, so they are probably really motivated.
    Anyhow, I think distributing tasks to designated people by saying like “X, could you take care of this?” and if they decline, choose the next person etc.
    I also think it’s ok and a very good idea to send friendly reminders of deadlines. People tend to regress a bit when someone else takes the overall responsibility.

  4. I wouldn’t leave it open for people to “choose” to help. Diffusion of responsibility and all that. I would send them individual emails asking for their help on a specific task. If you have time, I would spend a bit of time considering who you think would be best at which task (given their availability, expertise/experience, etc) and then briefly mention you thought they would be good at it because of that reason in the email. Also give them a deadline in the email (“I’m hoping you can have task X finished by Date XX”). As Sofia mentioned, if they say no, you just ask someone else. No harm, no foul. In terms of follow up, you can frame it as a check-in and to see if they need anything if that makes you more comfortable. Something like “I just wanted to touch base and see how task X is going and if you needed anything?”

    They may not do it. This is a risk you run and nothing really to be done about it except to be prepared to do it yourself if it’s not completed. I manage large teams and this is basically how it goes. I hope for the best and plan for the worst, but worry about neither (because I planned!)

    1. Exactly this. I also sometimes will note how long a task will take & ask volunteers about how much time they have available to help, then match them up. Furthermore I set deadlines that are early enough if someone blows off their assignment, it can get picked up by someone else. Occasionally I plan a task with a “lead” and a “back-up” or team member(s).

      My delegating mantra is “if I do everything myself then nobody else gets the chance to help. By delegating I am giving others the chance to contribute & be proud of their work.”

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