Management

5 Step Process to Help You Delegate Like a Pro

Julia Erman
July 31, 2020

Being a leader in childcare is often difficult. As leaders we hold up our teams, businesses and personal lives all in one. This can feel (and be) overwhelming from time to time, but effective leadership can make life easier and help you grow your child care programs while benefiting both staff and customers. 

One habit that distinguishes a good leader from a great one is the habit of delegation. Delegation is when you assign one of your tasks to another person. This might sound simple, but I use the word ‘habit’ purposely because it can be difficult to release responsibility to others so effective leaders must do it both regularly and intentionally.

There’s a saying that goes, “do only what only you can do”. This means that if someone else can do it, then you should let them so you can focus on something that they can’t do. In leadership this is so important. A leader’s job is to lead people, not do their work for them. When you spend the whole day bogged down in “tasking”, there isn’t much room left for training staff, growth planning or other important aspects of business management. 

Of course, many know this to be true, but still struggle with delegating. So today we will investigate how to delegate. We will look at how to pinpoint areas for delegation, finding the right person for the job, effectively following up, and fostering good habits that will eventually lead to “only doing what only you can do”.

To take your delegation skills to the next level, simply implement the following 5 step process:

Figure Out What Areas and Tasks You Can Delegate

When looking at your daily schedule it can be easier to just dive in than to think about what areas you could pass along. To best decide what to delegate you need to ask yourself, is this a task or responsibility that someone else could handle? Many business leaders embrace the 70% rule: If someone can do the job 70% as well as you, it should be delegated to them. 

To get started, make a list of the things you accomplish in your role in a given week. Once you have a list, sort through the items and judge them by the 70% rule.  

Here are a few examples of tasks that I completed when I started as a Director but later learned could be successfully delegated:

  • Staff scheduling
  • Managing Staff Calling out sick
  • Preparing the monthly snack calendar 
  • Ordering the snack items
  • Managing and ordering supplies
  • Printing and putting together enrollment packet information
  • Division Meetings (age group meetings) 
  • ...and many more! 

When you have sorted through the list and picked out tasks to delegate you are ready to move to the next step. 

Pick the Right Person For the Task

Once you have your list, picking the right person for the task is the key to effective delegation. I ask these four questions before I delegate a task to a team member:

  • Do they have time, or if not can I give them more time?
  • Do they have the skill to do the task 70% as well as me?
  • Are they responsible enough to follow through with the task?
  • Is this someone I can trust, or a task that I am willing to risk for their growth?

If you answer YES to all the questions you have found the right person. 

One thing to remember is that by assigning a new task or responsibility to another team member you are giving them a new opportunity. This is their chance to shine in your center and for you to see what they are really capable of. It can also give you valuable feedback about your employees: are they capable of managing more? Are they ready for a promotion or do they need more time to develop? Are they willing to learn, adapt and take on responsibility? This can inform your decisions on hiring, pay and promotions in a productive, upbuilding way. 

Once you have answered these questions and delegated the task to your team member, the next step is to plan for follow-up to see the task through successfully.  

Create a Follow-up Structure to Make Sure the Delegated Task is Successful

Follow-Up is key to any successful delegation, in order to make sure that the task is completed and done right, while still showing trust in the abilities of your staff to take care of the task. Unfortunately, this is the step where I have seen most leaders fail. 

As a leader you are ultimately accountable for everything done in your center. For this reason there should be some level of follow up in all areas of the center. Checking in with employees helps them feel supported, while allowing you to head off any potential issues. Some areas you may follow more closely while others should be released fully once you have seen them completed successfully. This shows your staff you trust them, while avoiding increased workload through unnecessary check-ups. 

Here are a few ways to follow-up quickly and effectively:

  • Use open ended questions to ask the staff member how the task is going
  • Ask if there is anything they need to complete a task
  • Try a weekly report, this can be a great way to check in without having to ask. 
  • Check task completion yourself without mentioning to the staff member
  • Always, always remain respectful and give praise for a job well done, especially if it is a newly delegated task! 

When a follow-up structure is put into place, tasks are much less likely to be missed or forgotten, while your team feels supported and their work appreciated. As time goes on this follow-up should be less and less to avoid wasting time or being interpreted as a micro-manager.  

Understand That Everyone Does Things Different and That’s Ok

Something that kept me from delegating was that I would often rather do the job myself. First, I knew it was done correctly and second I didn’t have to deal with follow up. 

What I learned as time went on was that this flawed reasoning was holding me back. I didn’t have time to do everything and unless I passed on a few things our center wouldn’t continue to grow. 

It is important to remember that no one else is you, but that’s okay. They aren’t going to execute the task in the same way you would, but the question is, did they complete it? Rather than getting hung up on the how, focus on the end result and remember that the 70% is used extensively and effectively by many great leaders today. 

Get to a Point Where You Are “Only Doing What Only You Can Do”

The final step in the process is to repeat steps 1-4 to arrive at a place where you are only doing tasks and responsibilities that ONLY YOU CAN DO. This is not a destination you reach once, however, but a place you will arrive at once in a while until something shifts. Maybe your center grows, you start a new center, or maybe a pandemic hits. Then it’s time to get back to step #1 and get your delegate on again! 

So what if you are there already? If you are, you may be asking yourself questions like “what do I do now?” or “what are they even paying me for anymore?”. The idea that delegating makes you lazy or less valuable is a misconception that indicates too much focus on the value of tasking rather than that of leading. 

When you get to this point your sole job is to lead. What this looks like in the child care field is planning growth and investing in building and training your team. It’s my guess that before you started this process you didn't have too much time for these things. Of course, effective delegation also reduces your personal stress and workload so you can get back to enjoying your job and spending time with the children in your care.  

Of course your situation is always changing but that’s okay. When something shifts it is your job to pick up the pieces and step in. If a staff member quits you may be spending more time filling their position or if there is a big event, you may need to step into the breach. This is a very fluid process, but the key is to stay flexible and continue to delegate and follow-up until you reach a new balance. If you’ve delegated so well that you have all kinds of free time, check out how to be productive when times are slow.

Final Notes

If you want your center to grow (and to keep your sanity) delegation is a process that is essential! The longer you hold back the longer it will take you to get where you are headed with your business. 

It is my hope that by following the 5 proactive steps above you can get your delegation to the next level and develop personally, as a staff, and as a business.  

If you have any questions about delegation or have any comments, we would love to hear from you. Please visit our website and send me a note! Thanks and the best of luck as you manage your teams to continued future growth and success!

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