As a leader, you are responsible for all the operations within your team. There’s simply not enough time in the day for you to do everything. You must learn how to delegate tasks and how to delegate them well. Many student leaders wrongly believe that they are the most competent individual on the team, and therefore they need to complete all the tasks themselves. While this process might be plausible with a small organization and few activities, it quickly becomes untenable when your organization reaches any reasonable size. Doing everything yourself is neither desirable nor efficient. There are three key reasons why you should delegate:
1. Delegation allows you to focus on tasks that utilize your strengths. If you delegate properly, the person you delegate to will be able to perform the requested task as well or better than you can. Certain member types excel at certain tasks.
2. Delegation promotes a sense of unified responsibility. Members want to feel ownership and belonging towards a team. Having responsibilities allows them to buy into the mission and invest into the organization.
3. Taking on too large a workload may lead to burnout. A harried leader is an ineffective leader.
CS1: At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was excited to launch my new ideas for recruiting. The Speech & Debate team had achieved some tangible success in the previous semester, and I wanted to aggressively expand on our initial gains. I figured that I knew all that needed to be done for recruiting preparation so I’d do it all myself. At the time, I didn’t trust other members of my team not to screw it up. I assembled a basket of supplies, trophies, and a nice vinyl poster. I think one logistical point that no one really addresses is that a box full of recruiting materials is freakin heavy! What was usually a fifteen minute walk took almost forty five minutes. Once I’d set the box down in my apartment, I sat down to print out 200 flyers that needed to be cut into fourths with a pair of dull scissors (they broke halfway through, and I had to switch to a dull kitchen knife). At about 1:00 AM, I sent a desperate email blast to all other members begging for assistance. Of course, no one answered since it was past midnight. After this point, I was forced to realize that I could not run the team on my own. Learn from my mistake. Delegate early and often.
Think about how your organization is segmented and what tasks are necessary both on a once-off basis and an ongoing basis. You’ll first want to determine whether a certain task is critical to the organization.
Low Critical Tasks: These tasks will not have a major impact on the organization. These tasks should be delegated to new members and act as a training ground to both recognize potential and identify skillsets.
Mid Critical Tasks: These are tasks that have a tangible impact on the organization, but will not cause significant harm if done improperly. Assign your experienced members if you need them to be done well, but consider assigning those members who you consider to be rising stars. A mid critical task might be the opportunity to identify the top talent within your organization.
Critical Tasks: These tasks are categorized as necessary to the continuation and success of the team. These tasks have significant impact on the organization, and failure would cause major problems. Assign these tasks to members who have a track record of success. Ample time and resources should be provided.
CS2: During a presentation with a potential client, CFA will send a team of members each of whom will perform certain tasks during the meeting. The tasks are categorized below:
Low Critical Tasks
Note-taking (this is the poster child of low critical tasks)
Setting up presentation (entering conference numbers, setting up PowerPoint, etc.)
Introduction of team members and presentation topic
Mid Critical Tasks
Leading segments of the client presentation
Answering questions about presentation content
Networking with client after meeting
Determining presentation content and delivery
Asking client to purchase or participate in team services
Taking over complicated explanations or managing difficult questions as necessary
Next, consider the requirements of the event and what skills might be necessary to complete them. Some question you might ask yourself include:
What skills (emotional intelligence, event planning, financial analysis, etc.) are needed to complete the task?
Is the work fulfilling? Does it provide either a good opportunity for advancement or training?
What support will the person need who takes on the task?
When planning for who should take charge of a task, you’ll need to match the skills required to complete the task with the skills of the candidates that you’d like to delegate to. Take into consideration three questions.
What is the person good at?
What skills do you want that person to develop?
What skills does that person want to develop?
The ideal task for any individuals should be difficult enough that they feel challenged, but not so difficult that they feel overwhelmed. Also consider both the individual’s personal ambitions and the skill gaps that need to be filled within your organization.
In order to discover and develop the skills of your members, especially new members, you’ll want to make use of your low critical tasks. These tasks will not significantly affect the team if done improperly, and will be a great training ground to identify the proficiencies of your untested members. Once you’ve noted a member’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be better positioned to identify suitable mid critical tasks and critical tasks for them in the future.Once you’ve mapped out your task and who you think would be best suited to complete it, it’s important to consider two additional points.
1. Think about what support your teammate might need to complete the task.
2. Think about what milestones you’ll identify as check points to ensure that the work is proceeding properly.
For low critical tasks, you should use new members whenever possible in order to begin the process of identifying skillsets and promoting investment into the team. Normally, these tasks are short term and will not have many milestones. Therefore, it’s imperative that you outline what you want accomplished and what metrics (amount of money raised, number of emails acquired, etc.) would qualify as a success. This clarity will ensure that your teammates has the best chance at completing the task well.
For mid critical tasks, assign members who have either a proven track record in the past or are rising stars. You’ll also want to determine whether these tasks require more than one person to complete it successfully. When constructing a team, think about complimentary skillsets and personalities (strategist with implementor or diplomat with devil’s advocate) and teams that have worked well in the past. You’ll want to have a timeline and milestones in your mind. Check in at relevant points to ensure timely completion.
For critical tasks, assign members who are your top performers. Ensure that they have a highly qualified team to support them if necessary. Set up a project plan with timelines and milestones and check in at pre-determined intervals (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) to identify any gaps or delays that may be forming. Do not hesitate to take an active role if necessary.