The leader of a company is both blessed and cursed: he has the burden of a lot of tasks to get through and decisions to make in a day, but if the company is of a certain size, he has the benefit of handing off tasks to other members of the organization. Some items will naturally flow from superior to subordinate, and it’s always excellent to see a person’s effort made more effective when it can be divided well amongst supporting staff. But where is the line between what should and shouldn’t be handed off to someone else to take care of? And how do you delegate without letting anyone else think you’re a lazy manager who can’t do things for himself?
It should only ever be the leader’s duty to do the most important thing at a given moment. Often times this will consist of in-person meetings with entities of interest, applying specialized knowledge, or making far-sweeping decisions about the tone or culture of a company. These are non-delegatable tasks, as it actually matters who gets things done in these situations. But there is a much larger sample of to-do items that are also important to a company’s progress where it simply doesn’t matter who gets something done. The only aim is to see an item completed.
This is your first question to answer: “Does it actually matter if I’m remembered as the person who did this?” If not, delegate. If yes, then make it a priority so you can get on to the next thing.
You should also delegate recurring tasks, those items that pop up on the calendar regularly. A leader’s job is to build momentum, and recurring tasks only maintain momentum. Stop throwing your energy into something that you haven’t yet figured out how to do without.
An effective leader will also delegate a task to someone if it represents an opportunity for that person to refine or perfect a professional skill. Get the shy guy to make more phone calls. Get the person interested in other aspects of the company working closer on those things.
You should also delegate when you face a deadline that’s unreachable under your own effort. Break it in half and give one half to someone else. That’s what you’re paying your employees to do—to make the company run as smoothly as possible. And when you smooth out a pain point in your own list of tasks, the company is certainly running more smoothly.
It’s too easy to listen to the negative self-talk that says your employees will think you’re a lazy leader for delegating, but this is simply not the case. People like being told what to do and to know very clearly what’s expected of them. A boss will end up giving his employees tasks in one form or another. Delegating makes it possible to stay more closely attuned to the goings-on of your company.