Productivity Challenge Chapter Six – Delegation

How much did the previous automation challenge blow your mind?

Have you picked up the pieces enough to get to next step in your journey? By now, you’ve saved more than 6h15 per DAY! Most people work 8 hours per day and you are nearly double their productivity. How do you feel? like a demi-god? Are you laughing at your coworkers saying they are overworked while you handle 2 times their load? (don’t do that, it’s rude…)

The next step in this tremendous adventure makes things even more interesting, especially if you have are a business owner or a manager.

Before we get started, let me remind you that you can find chapter one on email management here, chapter two on automation here, chapter three on calendar management here, chapter four on phone management here and chapter five on automation (reloaded)here.

Now, let’s get it on with challenge no.6!

Save 3 hours per day by delegating

Delegation is an important tool for any manager. If you have more than one or two years of experience, you’ve probably heard that many times. As we’ll go through the steps, you’ll get to learn about the many resources that are available to help you delegate.

As I said before, this applies more to people who own businesses and/or manage employees. If you don’t fit the profile, don’t worry, first, you are so effective from the previous 5 days of the challenge that your boss is probably right behind you to give you a promotion (congratulations!). Second, some of the tips are useable in non-formal relationships as well (like among colleagues).

At any rate, let’s delve into the meat of the subject


Step 1 – Know thy employees

If you really want to delegate, you have to first have a strong relationship with your team. You must know what matters to them and what kind of personality they have. How do you do this? No, it’s not Facebook-stalking, you just have to talk to them.

The best way, by FAR, to building this relationship is to hold regular, weekly 1 on 1 meetings. I’m gonna go farther and say that 1 on 1 meetings are the one essential tool that a a manager should use. This series of emails is mainly about saving time but another facet of productivity is achieving the desired results. One on One meetings (or O3s) help you so much in that that it becomes nearly an unfair advantage over your non O3ing peers.

So, how do you go about this? First, you’ll need to announce to your team that you are going to start doing one on ones. Manager-Tools has a wonderful email template that you can send out. Then, well, you just do them, every week, religiously. In terms of structure, O3s last 30 minutes and look like this:

  • 10 minutes for the employee: These are the topics brought by the employee. Often this will be connected to work, but it can also be more personal, it’s their choice.
  • 10 minutes for the boss (you!): You’ll get to bring out the specific things that you want to talk about.
  • 10 minutes for the future: You and your employee get to discuss development, how they want to grow, where their career is, etc. This is the ideal time to follow up on delegation and coaching.

This schedule is not set in stone. The goal is to leave as much room as possible for the employee, so, if he has 20 minutes of stuff to discuss, that’s OK. You can adapt the other sections accordingly.

Some other points to consider for O3s.

  • It’s a special time for your employee. Pay attention! Do not look at your email, answer the phone etc. If it rings, let it ring. You are at your most important meeting of the day.
  • Take written notes. Like on paper. Yea, I’m talking about using an ink stick to write on dead trees. The reason is that using the computers or a tablet to take notes creates a distances between you and your employee. It’s all about relationship building remember! Manager Tools (again…) has a template for this.
  • If you’ve never had O3s before with an employee, don’t be too surprised if you have to really work to start the conversation. This gets easier overtime. On the other side of the coin, it’s very possible that you have an employee that has so much to say that it goes past the scheduled 30 minutes. Let them! Just make sure you scheduled for that on that first week.

Step 2 – Give them feedback

If O3s are tool number 1, feedback is managing tool number 2. In your delegation, you’ll have to give a lot of feedback. It sounds simple but I know a lot of managers who essentially only give feedback once or twice a year when HR tells them they have to do employee evaluations. It’s the equivalent of taking your car, drive towards the general direction of New York City (if you are in NYC, use LA as an example) and never look at maps or road signs. You end up in Toronto and your co-pilot looks at you and says: “You dissapoint me Jenkins…“. That’s not very effective.

Feedback must be given quickly and as close as possible to the action. Feedback should also be connected to an observable action and must be oriented towards the future. Here is an example:

One of your employees is late to a customer meeting. You have to give him feedback as early as possible after you become aware of the problem. The observable action in this case is that he came it at 9h40 to a 9h30 meeting. You’ll base your feedback on changing future behavior instead of explaining the current behavior. It’s more “What can you do to not be late next time” than “why were you late today”.

If this sounds complicated, here is the model in 4 steps (like pop music!):

  1. Start by asking him this question: “Hi Jenkins, can I give you some feedback?” and wait for an answer. Jenkins can say no. That’s why you asked the question. You want to ensure that he is in a receptive state to hear your message. If he says no, just come back later or the next day.
  2. State the facts. “When you arrived at 9h40 instead of 9h30 at the customer meeting today…”. Make it specific so that the context is clear. It is important to state the facts and not try to guess the intentions or emotions. For example, you cannot give feedback to someone because she was arrogant during a meeting. You can however talk to her about her body language or behavior (“When you rolled your eyes while Jenkins was talking…”)
  3. State the impacts of the behavior. That’s where your relationship with the employee comes into play. You need to know what makes them tick. Let’s say Jenkins is an ambitious guy:”… It reflects very badly on your image. This customer can start to wonder, if you slip up on the simple things, where else could you create some problems.”
  4. Ask him to change (or, for positive feedback, continue). In Jenkins case, as it is negative feedback, you could just ask “What could you do differently?” If this was positive feedback, you can just end the interaction with a “Good Job!”

That was a negative feedback example but know that 90% of your feedback should be positive. Your employees work well most of the time don’t they? Tell them that! Keep in mind that feedback is not something complicated and should not take more than 10 seconds in most cases (even negative).

In Summary, here is our example of feedback to Jenkins:

You: Hi Jenkins, can I give you some feedback?
J: Sure
You: When you arrived at 9h40 instead of 9h30 at the customer meeting today it reflected very badly on your image. It could have made the customer start to wonder if, since you slipped up on that simple matter, you could create problems on someplace else. What could you do differently next time?
J: I’ll leave earlier in the morning.

And here is a positive feedback example:

You: Hi Sylvia, can I give you feedback?
S: Sure
You: When you always follow-up to make sure your projects are well implemented, it demonstrate that you care about delivering a complete product to our internal clients. Good Job!
S: Thanks

See how simple that is? You can easily give 10-15 instances of  feedback a day.


Step 3 – Delegate tasks and coach your team

Now you know what your employees like and want through your O3s while they know what you like and want through feedback. It’s time to start delegating your tasks!

Here is how to do it:

  1. Establish the objective. Open your three lists of tasks and choose one that you want to delegate. Talk to the employee whom you think would be interested in such as task and set a goal. The goal should be measurable and achievable. Let’s say you want Jenkins to start handling your financial reports. The goal could be written as follows: “Within three months, produce the monthly financial reports without help and without error”
  2. Collect data related to performance. Gather information on the employees capabilities. For example, we’d gather documents or data that would showcase Jenkins’ proficiency with the statistic suites in MS Excel.
  3. Analyze performance. Look at the data you’ve acquired in point 2. Is the employee’s knowledge adequate for the task? What points should be improved?
  4. Review and modify goals. Based on the data you’ve analyzed, is the goal still realistic? Jenkins had three months to achieve the objective but we realize that he’s a certified MOS Master. The goal could be changed to 1 month instead.
  5. Identify resources. A period of brainstorming works well for this point. Sit down with your employee and make a list of resources that could help achieve the goal. In our example, Jenkins knows a lot about Office but needs to extract data from other systems that he’s less familiar with. One resource that he decided to tap was the local SAP Superuser to help him with the database.
  6. Develop an action contract. Define the steps that the employee will take to get to the goal. We are talking about very short steps here, at least initially. For example, one step would be that Jenkins should set up a meeting with the Superuser within 24 hours. Since this is very tight, only set up the action plan for 1 or 2 weeks at a time. It’s impossible for you or Jenkins to predict the future in that level of details over months and you don’t need to do so.
  7. Implement strategies. Just Do It! Have the employee implement the action plan.
  8. Go back to point 2. to review the progress of your employee.

Simple? Yea. You can do it with all your employee and most of your tasks. It takes a while to implement fully but it’s worth it.


Further Resources – Want to learn more about the topic?

  • Manager Tools: Manager Tools is the single best source of information about O3s, feedback and delegation. It’s at the core of everything they do, so much so that they call it the Trinity of Management. Check out their Basics series for a LOT of information on how to do this right.

And here are a few articles that discuss the same subject.

Here are the links to the previous challenges.


There you go, that’s delegation for you. You are a MACHINE of productivity right now, leveraging all the tools that you have.

Now, you better get ready for the final battle!

As always, if you want to receive my blog posts directly in your email, sign up for the Newsletter here. If you want to join the 7 day challenge email course and get all 7 chapters within a week, you can sign up here.