12/12/2012 12:14 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

Work Less, Create More Value: The Art of Delegating


Scope is a function of resources and time. If the scope of what you're trying to accomplish is too much to get done in a high quality way, you have to add resources, add time, or cut back the scope. In other words, say "no" to some of the less important items and non-value-adding steps. Think in terms of your options for completing tasks:

  1. Do well yourself
  2. Do yourself, but just well enough
  3. Delegate and supervise
  4. Delegate and ignore
  5. Do later
  6. Do never

Working harder is often counter-productive. As Simpler Consulting CEO Marc Hafer explained to me, the world is full of heroes who get in the way -- the "bright, passionate, compassionate ones who are blinded by their passion." They strive to "get it done" at any cost, not realizing the true cost is the diminished effort against other, higher value adding activities.

In Hafer's eyes, step one is figuring out which activities are actually valued by the end customer. You need to take into account stakeholders' concerns and requirements along the way, but if you're not defining true value in the end customer/patient/consumer's eyes, you're looking through the wrong lens.

With that in mind, more on your options:

Do well yourself
These are the things your end customer values most. You're going to say no and downplay, delegate, cut back, and avoid other things so you can spend more time on these critical activities. This is where you and your team need to strive for perfection. Doing well is an understatement. Here's where it's essential to do your absolute best.

Do yourself, but just well enough
You accept the need to do these things yourself. But they are not as important as some others. So, you should do them and do them well enough to satisfy the stakeholders that need them to fit into what they are doing for the end customer -- and no better.

Delegate and supervise
The items you delegate and supervise are important. You want them done well, but there isn't enough value in doing them yourself. Or perhaps, there are others who can do the work better than you. Either way, you care about these items enough to supervise the work.

Delegate and ignore
Items you delegate and ignore are off your plate. You hope the people you delegate to will do them well, but they don't matter as much as other tasks. You're prepared to accept whatever results come to fruition.

Do later
Things you decide to do later may get done eventually, but certainly not now. They are one step above the bottom rung and delaying them may cause stress with the people who need them now. That's a choice you've made in pursuit of the highest value adding activities for the end customer.

Do never
Not only do you think these tasks are bad ideas for you and for people you might delegate to, but you also believe they are just bad ideas. Here's your clearest "no." Not me. Not others. Not anyone. Now now. Not ever. Go away. (Harsh, but clear.)

The next time a task arises, ask yourself about the end value and then determine the best approach.

This is an example of the heart of The New Leader's Playbook: BRAVE leadership, and especially, choosing where to play (and where not to play).

We're all new leaders all the time. So remember all the time that leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. With that in mind, BRAVE leaders pay attention to their Behaviors, Relationships, Attitude, Values, and Environment -- all the time.

Click here to read about each step in the playbook

Click here for YouTube videos highlighting each step

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The New Leader's Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months. George Bradt is PrimeGenesis' managing director, and co-author of The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 3rd edition 2011) and the freemium iPad app New Leader Smart Tools. Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.