"Don't buy a dog and bark yourself"

“Don’t buy a dog and bark yourself” – this was the heading of a chapter in the book, The Rule Breaker’s Book of Business by Roger Mavity, which I read recently.  I loved Roger’s take on the art of delegation.  It is often assumed, like many other business skills, that as we enter private practice and we start to grow, or if we manage a service and have a team around us, that we automatically possess the skills to delegate tasks to other people.   I am not great at delegation, and will be the first to put my hand up about that… something about being a perfectionist I think!  How do we work out if we need to delegate?

What is important in the art of delegation firstly is understanding where your value sits in the practice/business.  Ask yourself are your skills being utilised well?  As practices grow, it is important to learn how to delegate well.  We have all heard the phrase “time is money” and it is true.  If you are feeling a bit busy or finding you are not getting to those ‘other’ tasks such as working on your business, not just in it, I think you might need to look at what you can offload from your day.

The first thing is you need a list.  Can be in the form of a handwritten list, or a table – doesn’t have to be fancy.  On the list write down all the tasks that you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Make a little note beside each one that indicates the amount of time you spend on that task.  Once you have worked out the time taken to complete everything, multiply that by the value you are worth per hour (i.e., what would you pay yourself an hour to do those things).  What you might find then is that you could be better off paying someone at a lower hourly rate to do some of the tasks that you are doing.

Secondly, you now need to work out which items you have to do yourself.  These might be things that are particular to your role and not really something that others have the insight to do.  For me, for example, something that I need to do is revisit my business plan and ensure I am on track for the upcoming new year.

Now what we have left are all the tasks that you could delegate out to free up your time, or allow you to put your value into other more critical tasks.  Some of the things you might have left over could include:

  • Data entry for bookkeeping
  • Following up particular phone calls
  • Organising meetings
  • Ordering supplies

You then have a decision whether you outsource this to an external provider, perhaps a virtual assistant, or find someone through one of the many online administration support websites (for example: Odesk.com and Elance.com).  Your other option is to delegate to internal staff if you have this availability.  Remember when delegating to your team, three important things to consider:

  1. Don’t overload them all at once
  2. Ensure they have the skills to do the task
  3. List all the things they need to know to do the task and set them free to do it (that means, empower them with the knowledge of what the task involves, but don’t stand over their shoulder whilst they do it).

I will leave you with a quote from the chapter on delegating by Roger Mavity because it is thought provoking! 

“Somewhere in the dark depths of a bad delegator’s psyche is a hope that the job will fail, thereby proving their unique talent.  It takes a bit of confidence to enjoy other folks succeeding and not see it as a threat.”

Happy barking (in a friendly, helpful way!)

Planning, Outsourcing


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