Are You Delegating Problems or Are You Delegating Tasks?

Why do leaders hire Force Multipliers? 

Because entrepreneurs and leaders want (and need) more time back in their day in order to focus on growth and revenue generating activities or simply to experience more time freedom.

But those relationships don’t always work out. Leaders often make a hire and then wonder why they feel like they are working more or are frustrated by what seems like endless questions from their EA. And Force Multipliers are frustrated by micromanaging leaders, accidental diminishers, and constant roadblocks preventing them from having full ownership over their role. There can be many reasons for this (e.g. are you working with the right partner?), but for today, let’s focus on one aspect of the leader/assistant relationship, and ask yourself this:

Are you delegating problems or are you delegating tasks? 

For example, delegating a task is asking your Force Multiplier to book a ballroom at a specific hotel for an upcoming company training, and then schedule the VP to speak at the event, and to secure a caterer, and then do this action item, and change this one.

Delegating a problem to your Force Multiplier might be sharing that the team needs some renewed inspiration and vision from the CEO to increase morale and build a more cohesive culture and team. The problem is low morale and increasing turnover. The solution could be anything and your Force Multiplier is going to find several options and present them to you within the week.

Delegating problems allows a leader to truly gain time back in their day, gain leverage, and provide growth and learning opportunities to their team. Bonus: Once the problem is delegated. It rarely comes back on their plate. Delegating tasks means a leader is often stuck in a micromanagement loop that leaves staff with little context and stunted growth, while the leader is tasked with unnecessary oversight and project management responsibilities. They never really get projects or responsibilities off their plate. Which begs the question, why did they make that hire in the first place?

No one can do it as good as you can, you think? I appreciate what Dan Martell said in Buy Back Your Time: Get Unstuck, Reclaim Your Freedom, and Build Your Empire, “80% done by someone else is 100% freaking awesome.” And if you still need some additional guardrails, these two frameworks work well.

The 0-10 Principle

Visionary leaders have brilliant ideas on the daily. They may not be completely fleshed out, but they have the spark and then see the end result clearly. That idea is at about a 2 (out of 10). It is then the Force Multiplier’s responsibility to take that idea from a 2 to a 9. At which point, they will bring the idea/project back to their leader so they can do their final finessing to bring it to a 10.

Here’s what that looks like in practice. The CEO wants to create an inspirational speaker series that raises funds for their foundation. Great! That’s at about a 2. The Force Multiplier will then take that idea, gather the necessary people, create a timeline, budget, fundraising goal, put together a marketing plan, interview speakers, plan the event, and come back to the CEO with a final plan, including the speaker line-up. They will offer additional insight, perhaps tweak the speaker order, and come up with an overarching theme for the night. Now we’ve got a 10.

1-3-1 Rule

The 1-3-1 Rule is often used when you have a team of people constantly bringing the leader their problems. These problems end up taking up unnecessary time and energy from the leader, hence why problem delegation is so important! Here’s the 1-3-1 Rule:

1 Define the one problem that needs to be solved.

3 Offer three viable solutions.

1 Make one suggestion from that list of possible solutions.

This is a great model to use when leaders are getting bombarded with problems and issues. However, you can also flip this framework and use it to delegate problems to you Force Multiplier or other team members. If you have already identified the one problem that needs to be solved, you can then “assign” that problem to someone else and have them complete the 3-1 portion of the rule.

Stuck Delegating Tasks?

If you still find that you are delegating tasks and not problems, ask yourself why and consider the following:

  • Do you have the right strategic partner by your side?
  • Have you clearly outlined the standards and expectations for the role?
  • Does your force multiplier understand how they win with you?
  • Have you provided enough context and knowledge transfer to empower your assistant to take ownership over their role?
  • Have you shared the vision and goals with your team? Are there clear lanes and areas of accountability to achieve specific objectives?
  • Do you trust your EA? If not, what needs to change in order to have trust?
  • What systems do you have (or don’t have) in place that are keeping you stuck in task delegation?
  • How would your life and business change if you were delegating problems and not just tasks?

Force Multipliers, you can use these questions too. Get curious and engage in conversation with your leader, especially if they have trouble giving up control. 

If true partnership, and ultimately time freedom, is what you’re after, then you both must master the ability to delegate and solve problems. Then trust your partner to have the knowledge, experience, and context to get the job done. Problem solved.

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