Using Time Wisely

Should You Just Do It or Delegate It? Neither!

“Can you deliver your proposal on the 20th to a group of our executives?”

“That’ll work,” I confirmed. Never mind that I was booked solid right up until the delivery date. So I called in a newly hired VP to ask him to prepare the proposal for this hot new prospect and accompany me to deliver it.

“Sure thing. No problem. I’ve done dozens of these,” Doug said.

“The prospect wants a new communication campaign, something we’ve never done previously. But it’s well within our wheelhouse.” I quickly outlined what I thought Doug should include in our proposal and suggested the most appropriate format.

“Got it,” Doug said. “I’ll have it ready in a few days.”

From the road during the next few days, I checked in to see if Doug had questions.

“Nope,” he said.  “No worries. All under control.”

A week before we were to deliver the proposal, I asked to review a draft.

“It’s not quite ready for your review, but it’s looking good.”

On Thursday before our scheduled Friday client meeting, I insisted on seeing the proposal. You guessed it: The proposal was less than a page—primarily a bulleted list of the notes I’d outlined to Doug previously when I’d “delegated” the project. I worked all night to rewrite the proposal.

That incident was more than 25 years ago, and it still gives me heartburn. I’ve learned a thing or two about delegation since then.

The operative word in the blog title today is “JUST.” Done right, delegating or doing is not an off-the-cuff decision or task.  In many situations, neither option is appropriate:  JUST to do something yourself or JUST to delegate it. Doing something yourself that someone at a lower salary could handle takes you off track for accomplishing strategic projects that ONLY you can do.

But JUST delegating a task without forethought is a recipe for either disappointment or disaster. Instead, like the airplane pilot, you need a checklist to follow for best results.

Delegation Checklist: Deciding to Delegate

  • Will delegating this project free you to do more important work that ONLY you can do?
  • Will delegating this task to someone more qualified result in a better final product?
  • Do you have access to a qualified person to complete the project?


Delegation Checklist: Steps in the Process

  • Define the project clearly in your own mind first.
  • Select the right person for the project—consider skills, expertise, experience, commitment, workload.
  • Overview the project:
    • Start with the goal. What’s the overall mission or the results you want the person to accomplish?
    • State the exact deliverable you expect. Do you have in mind an event? A report? A briefing? Only a slide deck? An informal meeting with data analysis? A software modification?
    • Be clear about the due date and budget. Mention any flexibility. If you don’t have a definite budget, can you provide a range as a guideline?
    • Let the other person know what resources might be available. Other people to help? Information elsewhere? Templates? Notes from similar projects in the past? Extra budget to access? Mentors?
    • State any specific processes, policies, or procedures you expect the person to follow. Don’t make the project part of a read-my-mind guessing game.
  • Mention any precautions they should take along the way to prevent potential problems.
  • Monitor progress. Do you want periodic progress reports? Will you get in touch with the person if you want updates, or do you expect them to let you know if they run into delays or problems? What’s their level of authority to act without review or approval?
  • Follow up to make sure the project is completed successfully.
  • Evaluate and provide feedback.
  • Record a “this-is-how-I-did-it” note to the file (if the project was a “first”). This after-the-fact record will make the next similar project much quicker and easier to complete. Ask the individual to record the process, including recommendations to avoid problems in the future (for example: suppliers used, prices negotiated, unusual time required for certain steps).

Don’t JUST do it or delegate it. Decide to delegate deliberately so that the result meets or exceeds your expectations. Like the airplane pilot, try a checklist. You can download ours here by clicking this image below or this link:

15-Item Delegation Checklist