On delegating Aug 23, 2015

Delegating is difficult. You have to know which tasks absolutely require your attention, and which ones you just think require you.

You have to be able to communicate the why behind them. Unless it's something like data entry (and maybe even then), the person you're trusting to take these projects on needs to know why it's important and what kind of impact it has.


Why are these two things so difficult?

It's easy to get in the flow. Everything is your idea, your baby, and can only be done with your incredible expertise. Knowing what can be delegated often means taking a step or two back, and getting out of the "get shit done" mentality. It means being intentional about your work. This is often more difficult than we expect.

Getting back in touch with the why also requires taking some time to act intentionally. Often you know why something is important due to osmosis. You've spent weeks or months in the weeds of a project, or are working so closely towards a goal that stepping back and communicating it again is actually pretty difficult. It just is, why do I need to tell you?

I often find myself falling into this trap, where I assume that other people on the team have the same visibility and understanding of some project or area. This may not be the case at all, or not to the degree you need in order to execute properly. Default to over-communicating. 


Why should you put time into delegating?

The obvious, you get more shit done.

It adds clarity. If, when sharing something with a coworker, you can't explain why something is important or how it ties into your organizations larger goal, maybe it just isn't that important.

You also do your team and your organization a huge disservice by hoarding these experiences to yourself. A good team cultivates leaders from within, in everything it does. If one person knows everything, but the rest of the team couldn't tell you why something is important or what the organization's goal are, you're fucked. It's like the Bus Factor.

Delegation ensures that the entire team grows and gains experience, and you'll be in a far better position because of this.


Once of the biggest roadblocks to delegating that I've found is trust. I won't hand something off because I don't trust that it will get done with the same care of or effectiveness than if I did it myself.

If you truly don't trust someone to get it done (maybe they're inexperienced or new to the team), that's one thing. But but you should ask yourself - what can I do to build that trust, and be confident that any one on my team can tackle this? The answer is sharing intentions and your High Definition Destination.


On my team

At Shopify, my team is just getting to a point where delegation is critical. We've done a passable job at sharing the load, but I've fallen behind on communicating the why.

One way I hope to improve on this front is by building over-communication into as many of our usual processes as possible. If we're creating a card on our shared Trello board, it needs to include a) a brief explanation so anyone can pick it up and know exactly what's needed, and b) how it ties into our overall direction. 

Similarly, I've made a point of getting more clarification on our HDD from my lead as well. I can be as effective at delegating and communicating as I want, but without a connection to the organization's HDD, we may not be working in the right direction.

Take the guesswork out of it, be intentional, and make sure everyone in your organization knows exactly where they need to be heading.